Sunday Matinee: Sidney Lumet

Filmmaker Sidney Lumet passed away on Saturday April 9, 2011 at the age of 86. In an industry that praises that talents of such directors as Martin Scorsese, Francis Ford Coppola, Stanley Kubrick and Steven Spielberg – Sidney Lumet gets a little short changed in comparison to brilliant films that he had made.

Sidney Lumet started his career directing TV. His first feature film was 1957’s 12 Angry Men – a brilliant crime drama about a group of jurors deciding the fate of a murder trial. In the late 1950’s to the early 1960’s he made several television movies including a remake of Akira Kurosawa’s Rashomon.

He worked with plenty of stars and in the 1960’s directed such films as Long Day’s Journey Into Night with Katharine Hepburn, The Pawnbroker with Rod Steiger, Fail-Safe with Henry Fonda and The Hill with Sean Connery.

His most famous films were made in the 1970’s and included Serpico, Murder on the Orient Express, Dog Day Afternoon, Network and The Verdict. He never slowed down from directing, making movies throughout the 80’s and 90’s – his last film was the brilliant Before the Devil Knows You’re Dead in 2007.

In 1995 Lumet wrote a book about the film making process called Making Movies. It’s a brilliant inside look at the craft of creating movies. Lumet goes through the entire process from directing to writing, dealing with actors, set designers, cinematographers, editors and the studio. He uses several of the films he made as examples and does it without getting into any gossip about the actors he has worked with. But he was honest in his feelings about the cinema, how awesome it was to be making movies and how much he loved being a part of it.

He mentioned how much he felt that style was a misused word – that too many critics (and people) discussed style as a separate entity away from the film instead of a part of the film. Unless a film wants to be a separate work of art, Lumet believed that “Because making a movie has always been about telling a story…that’s what style is: the way you tell a particular story.” Lumet made movies that told powerful stories and while not ever one of his films was a masterpiece, he created more masterpieces than some directors have in their entire careers.

12 Angry Men

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Before the Devil Knows You’re Dead

Author: Shane Hnetka

Shane Hnetka has spent most of his life watching movies and reading comic books. He has decided to use this vast knowledge for evil instead of good.