A Mind That Suits What doesn't kill me, makes me laugh... usually.

Monday, April 11, 2011 :::
Sidney Lumet, RIP

A Mind That Suits is busy planning bigger things, for himself and for the memory of his beloved uncle, the great political novelist, Allen Drury.

So he will return to blogging shortly, he promises.  Or threatens.

Today, however, he would like to doff his hat in honor of his favorite film director not named Spielberg or Hitchcock, and that would be Sidney Lumet.  Mr. Lumet was proud of the fact that he could direct the defining gritty police drama (Serpico), a romance (Lovin' Molly), a lush whodunnit (Murder on the Orient Express), the bleak and uncategorizable  (Dog Day Afternoon), a social satire that nearly swept the Oscars,(Network),  and an adaptation of one of the most famous stage dramas of the 20th Century (Equus). 

Within 4 years. 

With no uniform style.  Not a shot, not an angle, not a color---not a frame---was common to those six films.

However, no fewer than five did indeed have one thing in common: brilliance.  If one bears in mind the most memorable thing that Mr. Lumet ever said about "the business"--So many movies are bad because most movies should never have been made--five great films in four years is beyond remarkable.

So Lovin' Molly was a complete failure, by all accounts.  No halfway with Sidney Lumet, one concludes.

OK, the movie with which Network competed most directdly at the Oscars, Rocky, was a great movie.  But was it better than Network?  Was its director, John G. Avildsen, (another "OK:" suppress that "who?")better than Sidney Lumet?

Once, as a youngster, A Mind That Suits was interested to stumble upon a Ukrainian community center in lower Manhattan, though he could hardly, at that age, have told you what a Ukrainian was.  (He has since learned a great deal about Ukrainians.  Many of his favorite former students were Ukrainian.) 

He was thrilled later--much later--to learn that said community center was where Mr.Lumet rehearsed nearly all his films.  He learned that during the first of many times that he read Mr. Lumet's memoir/how-to-guide, Making Movies

In his typically fitting tribute to Mr. Lumet, the great Roger Ebert comments, "If you care to read only one book about the steps in the making of a film, make it that one. There is not a boast in it, not a word of idle puffery. It is all about the work." 

A Mind That Suits offers a hearty "hear, hear" in large part, but dares to disagree in one very large detail.  True enough, it is perhaps the finest book about the process of making movies ever written.  However, though Mr. Lumet may not have made an overt boast, pride shines clearly throughout the book over the one thing common to all his films.  What could that be?  If you didn't know going into the theater that it was a Sidney Lumet movie, you could never tell by watching it.  That "no uniform style" style of his; he was entirely, and entirely justifiably, proud of that.

As all cinephiles must, A Mind That Suits here defers to Mr. Ebert to say that which needs to be said about Sidney Lumet.

::: posted by A Mind That Suits at 2:20 PM



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