Sunday, 10 April 2011

Salute Sidney Lumet (1924-2011)

One of American film's most revered directors, Sidney Lumet died at the age of 86 on Saturday.

He had been ill with lymphoma and passed away at his home in Manhattan.

Lumet was nominated by Hollywood's film academy four times for best director.

In 1957, he received an Oscar nomination for his debut feature film: 12 Angry Men. Before this film, he had worked on various off-Broadway films. He went on to win Oscar nominations for 1975’s Dog Day Afternoon, 1976’s Network and 1982’s The Verdict. He received his final Oscar nomination for the co-writing the screenplay to 1981’s Prince of City.

Some people have argued that he is not quite as good as Martin Scorsese or other directors but how does one really rate directors at that stratospheric level of filmmaking? For one thing, he told New York's stories like few others have.

The following list of selected Lumet films in a five decade Hollywood career make for exceptionally good viewing:

12 Angry Men (1957) - A crisp adaptation of a play

The Pawnbroker (1964) - One of the early films to consider the effects of the Nazi regime's concentration camps on their survivors

Serpico (1973) - A true story that challenges police corruption in New York about an honest New York cop who blew the whistle on rampant corruption in the force only to have his comrades turn against him.

Murder on the Orient Express (1974) - An exciting adaptation of the classic novel, featuring a list of strong actors

Dog Day Afternoon (1975) - This film challenged the drama genre because it was based on such an unusual but true story. The Chase Manhattan Bank in Flatbush, Brooklyn, was held siege by a homosexual bank robber determined to steal enough money for his lover to undergo a sex change operation. Al Pacino's performance is unforgettable.

Network (1976) - The movie studies how the media can be abused for the gain of a few.

The Verdict (1982) - This film is about redemption. It features Paul Newman as a career trying to resurrect his life. It may be his best ever performance, at least one of the performances that stretches him as an actor and not just an action hero.

Find Me Guilty (2006) - A fan of true stories, Lumet directs Vin Diesel as Jack DiNorscio, a mob man who defended himself in court in a mafia trial. Paul Newman may have also made The Colour of Money but Vin Diesel has not acted this well since and its hard to believe he ever will.

The wrote: On, Stephen Witty said his films "shared a dedication to character and performance, a feel for the sweaty rhythms of New York, a preference for narrative clarity over fanciful artistry."

"He had a unique gift with actors, an unusually dynamic feeling for drama, and a powerful sense of place, of the world of the picture," Martin Scorsese said.

He said Lumet was a "New York filmmaker at heart".

"Sidney Lumet will be remembered for his films. He leaves a great legacy, but more than that, to the people close to him, he will remain the most civilized of humans and the kindest man I have ever known," Al Pacino said.

"Sidney gave me my start in film composing in 1963 with 'The Pawnbroker' and I was privileged to work with him on four additional films including 'The Wiz,'" composer Quincy Jones said.

"Sidney was a visionary filmmaker whose movies made an indelible mark on our popular culture with their stirring commentary on our society," he said.

A director who began to tell New York stories, especially involving the city's minority populations, Spike Lee, said on Twitter:

"We all lost a Master Filmmaker yesterday, the Great Sidney Lumet. There could have been no INSIDE MAN without his superb DOG DAY AFTERNOON."

"Sidney was a visionary filmmaker whose movies made an indelible mark on our popular culture with their stirring commentary on our society" (Quincy Jones)

With AFP

Alistair Anderson

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