Sunday, April 10, 2011

Goodbye Mr. Lumet

From 12 Angry Men in 1957 thru 1982's The Verdict director Sidney Lumet made films that were meant to do more than entertain, though entertain they did -- in spades. His last feature in 2007 was a tawdry forgettable affair, but let's cut Lumet some slack. He was one of those directors that needed to keep working, needed to keep his hand in, even when it meant making the best of less than stellar material -- or doing television -- which is where he got is start way back in the formative days of that revolutionary medium. Lumet died on Saturday at age 86 as one of the lions of Hollywood, though he was a New Yorker through and through.

If I had to describe Sidney Lumet's filmmaking in a word I would say workmanlike, in the best sense of the word. He largely eschewed fancy camera work and editing, choosing instead to let the word on the page and his thoroughly prepared actors take the fore. He was a big believer in extensive rehearsal before the cameras rolled. It showed. Lumet fashioned a handful of masterpieces including the two mentioned at the outset. Certainly another is Network (1976) -- my favorite Lumet movie. Here's without a doubt the most memorable scene from Network. Back then it played like satire, now it seems more like prophecy.

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