Sidney Lumet

"Whilst the narratives of the majority of his films are involved with conflict, it is the resultant tension that Lumet uses to heighten dramatic effect, and he underpins this with a roaming camera that observes the events from without. This work is often an examination of a hidden and corrupt world." - Robert Edgar-Hunt & Frankie Good (Contemporary North American Film Directors, 2002)

Sidney Lumet

Director / Screenwriter / Producer
(1924-2011) Born June 25, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, USA
Top 250 Directors

Key Production Countries: USA, UK
Key Genres: Drama, Police Drama, Crime, Courtroom Drama, Family Drama, Comedy Drama, Ensemble Film, Urban Drama, Thriller, Crime Comedy, Docudrama, Psychological Drama
Key Collaborators: Boris Kaufman (Cinematographer), Philip Rosenberg (Production Designer), Sean Connery (Leading Actor), Andrzej Bartkowiak (Cinematographer), Ralph Rosenblum (Editor), Quincy Jones (Composer), Tony Walton (Production Designer), Jack Warden (Leading Actor), Oswald Morris (Cinematographer), Dede Allen (Editor), Harry Andrews (Leading Character Actor), Martin Balsam (Leading Character Actor)

"Trained in television, immersed in theatre and often inspired when working with leading acting talent, Sidney Lumet's filmography - a variable but impressive forty films -demonstrates the value of collaborative creativity and professional production. He deserves to be recognized as one of the greatest social chroniclers of his native New York... Since Q&A (1990), the quality of the still-prolific Lumet's work has failed to match that of his glory days, but he remains an industry elder of compelling reputation." - Richard Armstrong (The Rough Guide to Film, 2007)
"Although Sidney Lumet has applied his talents to a variety of genres (drama, comedy, satire, caper, romance, and even a musical), he has proven himself most comfortable and effective as a director of serious psychodramas and was most vulnerable when attempting light entertainments. His Academy Award nominations, for example, have all been for character studies of men in crisis, from his first film, Twelve Angry Men, to The Verdict." - Stephen E. Bowles (International Dictionary of Films and Filmmakers, 1991)
"At its best, Lumet's direction is efficiently vehicular but pleasantly impersonal... When his subjects are responsible, as in Long Day's Journey Into Night, his services are valuable. In most other instances, only his innate good taste saves him from utter mediocrity... Lumet shows no sign of ever rising above the middle-brow aspirations of his projects to become the master rather than the mimic of the current trend away from Hollywood." - Andrew Sarris (The American Cinema, 1968)
"This American film-maker used to be my favourite director. I was ecstatic over 12 Angry Men, impressed by The Pawnbroker and trampled on by The Hill; and thought The Deadly Affair about the best thriller of its decade. Such worship makes it all the more difficult to be objective, but I think disillusionment started about The Group, with its ragbag of disparate elements which Lumet made, as with many of his later films, so dislikeable as to alienate one from the movie itself." - David Quinlan (Quinlan's Film Directors, 1999)
"He excels in the deployment of actors - Peter Finch in Network, Al Pacino in Serpico and Dog Day Afternoon - as characters caught up in moral conflicts or facing up to evil and madness." - The Illustrated Who's Who of the Cinema, 1983
"One of the 'young guard' of film directors who emerged from the ranks of television and revitalised the American screen in the late 1950s. A fairly prolific film-maker, he is at his best dealing with claustrophobic situations and characters at breaking point, very much in key with his television training… Lumet made the switch from television to films, along with John Frankenheimer, Franklin Schaffner and Martin Ritt. His first film, based on a television play, was Twelve Angry Men (1957), in which he achieved an extremely cinematic drama entirely within the confines of one set, a jury conference room." - Margaret Hinxman (The International Encyclopedia of Film, 1972)
"A prolific director of varied and variable material, Sidney Lumet all too often displays the thumping theatricality and half-baked seriousness of his origins in television drama. But occasionally, especially when dealing with the subject of urban crime, he has created a chilling, corrupt and seemingly chaotic world, notable for convincing characters and the detail of his observations." - Geoff Andrew (The Film Handbook, 1989)
"Repression and its explosive effects have been explored by Lumet. He makes social statements in comedies and dramas that are unusually tense and pulsating." - William R. Meyer (The Film Buff's Catalog, 1978)
"For any director with a little lucidity, masterpieces are films that come to you by accident." - Sidney Lumet
TSPDT Guide
Highly Recommended
12 Angry Men (1957) , Fail-Safe (1964), Dog Day Afternoon (1975) , The Verdict (1982)
Recommended
The Hill (1965), Serpico (1973), Network (1976) , Running on Empty (1988), Before the Devil Knows You're Dead (2007)
Worth a Look
The Fugitive Kind (1959), The Pawnbroker (1965), The Offence (1972), Equus (1977), Prince of the City (1981), Q & A (1990), Night Falls on Manhattan (1996), Find Me Guilty (2006)
Approach with Caution
The Group (1966), The Deadly Affair (1966), Bye Bye Braverman (1968), The Anderson Tapes (1971), Murder on the Orient Express (1974), The Morning After (1986)
Not Recommended
Long Day's Journey Into Night (1962), The Wiz (1978), Family Business (1989)
Acclaimed Films / IMDB Filmography
1,000 Greatest Films
Sidney Lumet / Favourite Films
The Best Years of Our Lives (1946) William Wyler, Fanny and Alexander (1982) Ingmar Bergman, Fellini's Roma (1972) Federico Fellini, The Godfather (1972) Francis Ford Coppola, The Grapes of Wrath (1940) John Ford, Intolerance (1916) D.W. Griffith, The Passion of Joan of Arc (1928) Carl Theodor Dreyer, Ran (1985) Akira Kurosawa, Singin' in the Rain (1952) Stanley Donen & Gene Kelly, 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968) Stanley Kubrick.
Source: Sight & Sound (2002)
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    In the Mood for Love
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