Pete Hammond Remembers Sidney Lumet
Having covered Hollywood from a New York base for over 20 years, I watched Gotham hold its own because of filmmakers that included Jonathan Demme, Alan Pakula, Woody Allen, Spike Lee, Martin Scorsese and Sidney Lumet. So let’s see where that leaves us. Demme doesn’t work often enough. Pakula, whose resume includes one of the greatest American movies ever in All the President’s Men, died in a freak accident on the Long Island Expressway. Allen has been on an extended tour of Europe that I admit has completely reinvigorated him as a filmmaker but hasn’t helped the production scene in Manhattan. Scorsese shoots all over the place, and Lee has had trouble getting his films funded even though he’s a voice well worth hearing. Finally, Lumet, the guy who made seminal movies like Network, 12 Angry Men, Dog Day Afternoon and Serpico, and continued directing films at such a fast pace that co-workers swore he shot while double-parked, passed away. Now, Lincoln Center has announced a summer series of films made by the great Lumet. It is worth checking out some of his great films. Meanwhile, I’m still waiting for that electrifying new New York filmmaker who’ll have the clout to force productions to be shot in his backyard despite the high union costs, and who makes Gotham relevant again on the feature scene. Here’s the info on the Lumet retrospective:
New York, NY, June 27, 2011- Following a heartfelt and entertaining memorial for Sidney Lumet at Lincoln Center’s Alice Tully Hall with speakers and performers including Lauren Bacall, Walter Bernstein, Bobby Cannavale, Glenn Close, Jonathan Demme, James Gandolfini, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Jenny Lumet, David Mamet, Phylilis Newman and Christopher Walken among others, the Film Society of Lincoln Center has announced the details today for a retrospective of the admired and beloved director’s work, Prince of the City: Remembering Sidney Lumet which will screen at the Walter Reade Theater July 19 – 25.
Literally born into the business as the son of actors from the Yiddish theater, Sidney Lumet began acting at the age of four, and made his Broadway debut at age 11 and first film appearance at 15. But it was as a director—first in the new medium of television and later in movies—that he found his true calling, drawing on his experience in front of the camera to become the very definition of an “actor’s director.” From 12 ANGRY MEN (1957) to BEFORE THE DEVIL KNOWS YOU’RE DEAD (2007), Lumet averaged a film per year, leading 17 performers to Oscar nominations (six of whom won), and running the gamut from scabrous satires and fever-pitch melodramas to iconic police stories and even a musical—more often than not with the city of New York as his canvas. He was, in the words of Woody Allen, “the quintessential New York filmmaker,” whether telling gritty stories of urban corruption or adapting classics of the Broadway stage.
Highlights of the films being screened at the Walter Reade Theater (165 West 65th Street, between Amsterdam Avenue and Broadway) will include such award-winning classics as DOG DAY AFTERNOON (1975), NETWORK (1976) and LONG DAY’S JOURNEY INTO NIGHT (1962); Lumet’s celebrated police corruption trilogy (SERPICO (1973), PRINCE OF THE CITY (1981) and Q&A (1990)), a rare screening of Lumet’s big-screen treatment of Chekhov’s THE SEA GULL (1968) which is not available on DVD; and a special Movies for Kids screening of THE WIZ (1978).
Other highlights will be special guest appearances and Q&A’s including:
Screenwriter Walter Bernstein at FAIL-SAFE on Wednesday, July 20 at 6:15PM
Treat Williams and former NYPD narcotics detective Robert Leuci and Treat Williams at PRINCE OF THE CITY on Sunday, July 24 at 7:00PM
Luis Guzman, Paul Calderon and Judge Edwin Torres at Q&A on Sunday, July 24 at 4:00PM
FSLC Associate Director of Programming Scott Foundas said, “Few directors have ever captured the varied voices and textures of New York City as brilliantly as Sidney Lumet, who could take us into the world of a beat cop, a mob informant, or an East Harlem Holocaust survivor with the same uncanny attention to detail and empathy for his morally compromised characters. He was beloved by his actors, his crews, and by many of us here at the Film Society. We are honored to be able to offer this small overview of his remarkable 50-year filmmaking career, in the city he called home.”
FILM LINEUP FOR Prince of the City: Remembering Sidney Lumet
BEFORE THE DEVIL KNOWS YOU’RE DEAD (2007) 116min
Bonds of blood run sour in Lumet’s powerful last feature, when money troubles push brothers (Ethan Hawke and Philip Seymour Hoffman) to rob their own parents’ jewelry shop. Rivetingly edited in non-chronological order, one bad choice gives rise to mayhem as things spiral horrifyingly out of control. Tense with the atmosphere of classic tragedy, Lumet finds devastating moral corruption in the most sacred of places. The film also stars Albert Finney, Marisa Tomei, and Amy Ryan. BEFORE THE DEVIL KNOWS YOU’RE DEAD screens Monday, July 25 at 8:30PM.
DOG DAY AFTERNOON (1975) 130min
Still the standard by which many New York movies are compared, Lumet’s terrific telling of a true-story Brooklyn bank robbery gone way out of hand is just as captivating as ever. In an Oscar nominated role, Al Pacino is winning as Sonny, the young man leading the job to fund his girlfriend’s sex-change operation (Chris Sarandon, also Oscar nominated) and becoming a media sensation in the process. With John Cazale and Charles Durning lending first-rate supporting performances. DOG DAY AFTERNOON screens Saturday, July 23 at 9:00PM and Monday, July 25 at 1:00PM.
FAIL-SAFE (1964) 111min
Miscommunication brings the USA and the USSR to the brink of nuclear war in Lumet’s adaptation of the Cold War novel by Eugene Burdick and Harvey Wheeler. An electronic malfunction leads a bomber squadron to mistakenly think they’ve been ordered by the President (Henry Fonda) to drop an atomic bomb on Moscow; an alliance of necessity emerges between the American and Soviet militaries as they scramble to thwart the imminent catastrophe. FAIL-SAFE screens Tuesday, July 19 at 1:30PM and Wednesday, July 20 at 6:15PM. Screenwriter Walter Bernstein will participate in a Q&A following the screening on Wednesday, July 20 at 6:15PM.
FIND ME GUILTY (2006) 124min
Lumet returns to the courtroom with this underrated drama, starring Vin Diesel as the goofy but charismatic mobster who surprisingly represents himself in court.
Mining the longest running trial in U.S. history as rich fodder for both comedy and drama, Lumet delivers a deceptively lighthearted and fascinating take on the legal system. FIND ME GUILTY screens Monday, July 25 at 6:00PM.
LONG DAY’S JOURNEY INTO NIGHT (1962) 174min
Arguably, the definitive translation of Eugene O’Neill on film, Lumet’s adaptation of the author’s autobiographical, Pulitzer Prize-winning masterpiece stars Ralph Richardson as the embittered stage actor ‘James Tyrone,’ husband to a recovering (or relapsing?) morphine addict (Oscar-nominee Katharine Helpburn) and father to an alcoholic fellow actor (Jason Robards Jr., recreating his role from the original Broadway production) and a tubercular merchant seaman (Dean Stockwell). Shot entirely in sequence at New York’s Chelsea Studios following a lengthy rehearsal period with the cast, the film swept the acting prizes of the 1962 Cannes Film Festival, winning a collective Best Actor trophy for Richardson, Robards, and Stockwell, and Best Actress for Hepburn. LONG DAY’S JOURNEY INTO NIGHT screens Sunday, July 24 at 12:30PM.
NETWORK (1976) 121min
Likely, Lumet’s best known work and arguably his greatest achievement. Upon learning that he’s to be fired due to his station’s declining popularity, an iconic evening news anchor’s sudden transformation into a ranting demagogue turns the station into a carnival of angry populism, ridiculous radicalism, and, of course, sky-high ratings. As a critique of the news media and an expression of political discontent, there are few films that resonate with our own historical moment more presciently than NETWORK. The film earned Oscars for scriptwriter Paddy Chayefsky (whose screenplay was named one of the ten all-time best by the Writers’ Guild of America, East in 2002) and actors Peter Finch, Faye Dunaway and Beatrice Straight, working alongside an ensemble cast featuring Robert Duvall, William Holden and Ned Beatty. NETWORK screens Wednesday, July 20 at 3:45PM and Friday, July 22 at 6:15PM.
THE OFFENCE (1972) 112min
In the third—and arguably greatest—of Lumet’s five collaborations with Sean Connery, the actor gives a revelatory performance as a burned-out British detective on a task force searching for an accused child molester. When a suspect (Ian Bannen) is brought in for questioning, the detective suddenly snaps and beats the man to a bloody pulp, igniting an inquiry supervised by an equally weary, worn-down investigator (Trevor Howard). A pet project of Connery, who insisted United Artists make the film as a condition of his return to the James Bond franchise, THE OFFENCE remains one of Lumet’s most penetrating (and least known) studies in the politics and psychology of law enforcement. THE OFFENCE screens Wednesday, July 20 at 8:45PM and Monday, July 25 at 3:30PM.
THE PAWNBROKER (1964) 116min
In a stunning, Oscar-nominated performance, Rod Steiger stars as a German-Jewish Holocaust survivor who operates a small East Harlem pawnshop, where his daily interactions with the desperate clientele further darken his already jaundiced view of humanity. As he engages in turf warfare with the local pimp (Brock Peters) who uses the shop as a front, Steiger’s haunted memories come flooding back in staccato bursts, rendered by Lumet and editor Ralph Rosenblum in a subliminal style unprecedented in mainstream movies of the time. THE PAWNBROKER screens Tuesday, July 19 at 8:35PM and Friday, July 22 at 3:45PM.
PRINCE OF THE CITY (1981) 167min
Based on the experiences of NYPD narcotics detective Robert Leuci, Lumet’s epic examination of corruption and compromise, set against a teeming portrait of 1970s New York, is one of his most arresting and accomplished pictures. When an idealistic cop (Treat Williams) agrees to tell the Feds about departmental malfeasance, he receives a guarantee that he won’t have to rat on his partners—but as the stresses and dangers of being an informer wear him down, he finds himself turning against those closest to him. PRINCE OF THE CITY screens Sunday, July 24 at 7:00PM. Former NYPD narcotics detective Robert Leuci and Treat Williams will participate in a Q&A following the screening.
Q&A (1990) 132min
Lumet returned to a favorite subject—corruption inside the New York City Police Department—for this blistering adaptation of the novel by Carlito’s Way author (and New York Supreme Court Justice) Edwin Torres. The result is his best film of the 1990s. In a towering performance, Nick Nolte stars as ‘Lt. Mike Brennan,’ an openly racist NYPD cop under questioning for the purportedly “justifiable” homicide of a Latino drug dealer in the line of duty. Leading the charge is an idealistic assistant DA (Timothy Hutton), whose investigation leads him to a serpentine underworld of lurid New York nightlife, a flamboyant drug dealer (Golden Globe nominee Armand Assante) and the insidious conspiracies of those who deem themselves above the law. Q&A will screen Sunday, July 24 at 4:00PM. Luis Guzman, Paul Calderon, Judge Edwin Torres will attend and participate in a Q&A following the screening.
RUNNING ON EMPTY (1988) 116min
Loosely inspired by the lives of Weather Underground leaders Bill Ayers and Bernadine Dohrn, Lumet’s provocative, emotionally powerful family drama stars Judd Hirsch and Christine Lahti as aging Sixties radicals who’ve spent two decades on the lam after an anti-Vietnam protest bombing. When their teenage son (River Phoenix, in an Oscar-nominated performance), a talented piano prodigy, draws the attention of his high-school music teacher—and of the teacher’s beautiful daughter (Martha Plimpton)—the family is forced to call its vagabond lifestyle into question. RUNNING ON EMPTY screens Saturday, July 23 at 4:00PM.
THE SEA GULL (1968) 141min
Following his successful stage-to-screen adaptations A VIEW FROM THE BRIDGE and LONG DAY’S JOURNEY INTO NIGHT, Lumet turned his attention to Chekhov’s masterpiece of messy romantic triangles. Filmed in Sweden with an all-star international cast, the film stars Simone Signoret as the grande dame ‘Irina Nikolayevna Arkadina,’ who arrives at her brother’s country estate in the company of her lover, the suave novelist ‘Trigorin’ (a superb James Mason). David Warner is Irina’s sensitive playwright son, ‘Konstantin,’ who pines for the affections of beautiful neighbor ‘Nina’ (the radiant Vanessa Redgrave), even as she grows closer to Trigorin. THE SEA GULL screens Saturday, July 23 at 1:15PM.
SERPICO (1973) 130min
The first film in Lumet’s unofficial trilogy about New York City police corruption (followed by PRINCE OF THE CITY and Q&A) recounts the true-life exploits ofFrank Serpico (Al Pacino, in an Oscar-nominated performance), a plainclothes cop whose landmark testimony helped to expose the biggest corruption scandal in NYPD history. Filmed on location in four of the five boroughs and set to composer Mikis Theodorakis’ Grammy-nominated score, SERPICO endures as one of the great New York crime stories, and a remarkable portrait of one man’s unwavering resolve in the face of widespread intimidation. SERPICO screens Saturday, July 23 at 9:00PM.
12 ANGRY MEN (1957) 95min
After working in the fast-paced world of live television, Lumet transitioned to the big screen by adapting Reginald Rose’s award-winning teleplay to create a masterpiece of nail-biting suspense and moral purpose. Restricted to a cramped jury room on the hottest day of the year, the film is animated by Henry Fonda’s commanding and iconic performance as the lone dissenting voice battling to convince his fellow jurors of “reasonable doubt” – with a teenage defendant’s life in the balance. The film also stars Lee J. Cobb. 12 ANGRY MEN screens Tuesday, July 19 at 6:30PM.
THE VERDICT (1982) 129min
Adapted by David Mamet from the novel by Barry Reed, Lumet’s masterful courtroom drama features Paul Newman in one of his greatest performances as ‘Frank Galvin,’ an alcoholic Boston ambulance-chaser who takes a seemingly open-and-shut medical malpractice case for an easy settlement. But after visiting the bedside of the comatose plaintiff, Galvin undergoes a crisis of conscience and finds himself pushing the case to trial, where he squares off against a high-end defense attorney (James Mason) and a politically connected judge. Nominated for five Academy Awards: Best Picture, Director, Actor (Newman), Supporting Actor (Mason) and Adapted Screenplay, the film also stars Charlotte Rampling as Newman’s alcoholic lover, and a blink-and-you’ll-miss-him Bruce Willis as a courtroom extra. THE VERDICT screens Tuesday, July 19 at 3:50PM and Friday, July 22 at 8:45PM.
THE WIZ (1978) 133min
This dynamic adaptation of THE WIZARD OF OZ features an all-star cast and toe-tapping soundtrack. Set in 1970s New York, the film stars Diana Ross as the timid Dorothy who gets swept away to the Land of Oz for a journey of self-discovery. With its spectacular Art Deco-meets-disco landscapes, costumes by Oscar de la Renta and Norma Kamali, and music by Quincy Jones, it’s a treat for all ages. Nominated for Academy Awards for art decoration, cinematography, and score. The film also stars Michael Jackson as ‘The Scarecrow’ and Richard Pryor as ‘The Wiz.’ THE WIZ screens Saturday, July 23 at 10:30AM in a special Movies For Kids presentation.
Tickets will go on sale Thursday, July 7 both at the box office and on-line. Discounts are available for Film Society members. Read more about The Film Society of Lincoln Center.
Screenings will be held at the Film Society of Lincoln Center’s Walter Reade Theater, located at 165 West 65th Street, between Amsterdam Avenue and Broadway.
SCREENING SCHEDULE FOR Prince of the City: Remembering Sidney Lumet:
The Film Society of Lincoln Center – Walter Reade Theater
165 West 65 Street, between Broadway & Amsterdam (upper level)
Tuesday, July 19
1:30PM FAIL-SAFE (111min)
3:50PM THE VERDICT (129min)
6:30PM 12 ANGRY MEN (95min)
8:35PM THE PAWNBROKER (116min)
Wednesday, July 20
1:00PM SERPICO (130min)
3:45PM NETWORK (121min)
6:15PM FAIL-SAFE (111min)
8:45PM THE OFFENCE (112min)
Thursday, July 21
No Sidney Lumet screenings
Friday, July 22
1:15PM 12 ANGRY MEN (95min)
3:45PM THE PAWNBROKER (116min)
6:15PM NETWORK (121min)
8:45PM THE VERDICT (129min)
Saturday, July 23
10:30AM THE WIZ (133min) **Movies for Kids
1:15PM THE SEA GULL (141min)
4:00PM RUNNING ON EMPTY (116min)
6:30PM DOG DAY AFTERNOON (130min)
9:00PM SERPICO (130min)
Sunday, July 24
12:30PM LONG DAY’S JOURNEY INTO NIGHT (174min)
4:00PM Q&A (132min)
7:00PM PRINCE OF THE CITY (167min)
Monday, July 25
1:00PM DOG DAY AFTERNOON (130min)
3:30PM THE OFFENCE (112min)
6:00PM FIND ME GUILTY (124min)
8:30PM BEFORE THE DEVIL KNOWS YOU’RE DEAD (116min)