In tribute to film director Sidney Lumet, who died on April 9 at the age of 86, here are clips from what to my mind were his three greatest movies - Twelve Angry Men (1957) with Henry Fonda; The Hill (1965) with Sean Connery; and Dog Day Afternoon (1975) with Al Pacino.
Lumet was a master at merging social realism with psychodrama, as the three examples posted illustrate. He was also a great humanitarian, a liberal filmmaker who depicted his characters with tremendous sympathy and who managed to coax classic and career defining performances from some of cinema’s finest actors. Sean Connery’s performance in The Hill, for example, was in my opinion the best of his career, though Harry Andrews does come close to outshining him.
Movies which stand the test of time are rare. Rarer still is the director who directs not just one timeless work but three in a career, as Lumet did.
He was without a shadow of a doubt one of the finest film directors of the 20th century, ahead of his time both in terms of the themes he tackled and the craftsmanship he brought to the execution of those themes. Twelve Angry Men, if pitched as an idea today, would be rejected as being too uncinematic and dialogue heavy. The ability to carry a movie set in one location, which Lumet did by dividing up that one location into multiple locations, and sustain the tension throughout, was a work of cinematic genius.
He was a great believer in extensive periods of rehearsal with his actors before shooting began, anapproach which many directors scorn as the death knell of spontaneity. But as Lumet himself said: “All great work is preparing yourself for the accident to happen.”
In his case the ‘accident’ happened time after time.