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20 Most Essential Jonathan Demme Movies

From serial-killer thrillers to 'Stop Making Sense,' mob comedies to a feature-length monologue – the Demme films you need to see ASAP

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'Swimming to Cambodia' (1987)

Demme not only exposed America to Spalding Gray's unique blend of storytelling, stand-up, journalism and theater; he shot this Obie-winning monologue with a style that matched Gray signature mix of disengagement and depth. The downtown performer's electric riff on traveling to Thailand for a role in The Killing Fields finds its heart through its detachment, spanning great human emotion but delivered cool, at piece with works by Laurie Anderson, Philip Glass and previous Demme collaborators Talking Heads. In the pre-Wes Anderson era, the director shoots him with a meticulous detachment all his own: symmetrical, stationary, simple and functional. Demme never gets in the way of the story. But he doesn’t let it do all the work either. CW

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