Jonathan Demme Loses His Documentary Touch in "The Agronomist"

Salt Lake City Weekly | June 21, 2004
The Agronomist HH.5

Once upon a time in the 1980s, director Jonathan Demme’s made some of the decade’s best non-fiction features. But if The Agronomist is any indication, he’s forgotten every instinct for documentary subtlety he once possessed. He follows Jean Dominique, whose Radio Haiti became one of the few risk-taking journalistic voices in the country during three decades of dictatorship and political turmoil. Dominique proves a fascinating, passionate character who should make every photo-op-grubbing hack feel unworthy of the First Amendment, but Demme’s directing choices are infuriatingly redundant on a near-constant basis. If someone mentions Paris, we get a flash of the Eiffel Tower; reference to a phone call is accompanied by a ring on the soundtrack; etc. etc. et freaking cetera. It makes one long for the days when Demme knew that if you’ve got an interesting subject, it’s okay to get the hell out of the way.

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