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Belated Tribute to Sidney Lumet

On April 9th, 2011, the world lost a magnificent director to lymphoma. Sidney Lumet was a multi-talented, working in nearly every conceivable genre, but perhaps best known for films such as 12 Angry Men, Network, Dog Day Afternoon, and Serpico. Unfortunately, possibly because of our obsession with Charlie Sheen’s bipolar rants, or (more recently) Michelle Bachman’s tirades, the news of his death was a side note in popular media. Just as Network foreshadowed the age of news as entertainment, it seems that Lumet’s life and death was simply glossed over.

Sidney Lumet (6/25/1924-4/9/2011)

An unpretentious craftsman, Lumet brought out the inner fire of his actors, allowing them to both explode and simmer with equal intensity. From the unvoiced inner turmoil of Al Pacino in Dog Day Afternoon to the legendarily grand Peter Finch in Network, all the way through to the intricate performance of Philip Seymour Hoffman in Lumet’s final film, Before the Devil Knows You’re Dead, the director knew how to give flesh and form to heroic, and often tragic, dysfunction.

Here we see Peter Finch’s Academy Award winning performance as Howard Beale in Network (1976), and unfortunately his last performance for his award was received posthumously. “I am mad as hell, and I am not going to take it anymore.”

In Dog Day Afternoon (1975), Al Pacino takes the women of his botched bank robbery hostage.

And lastly, Ed Begley’s classic tirade in 12 Angry Men (1957).

As Martin Scorsese, a younger contemporary of Lumet’s who also captured the horror and beauty of New York, said:

“The death of Sidney Lumet really marks the end of an era … It’s hard to imagine that there won’t be any more new pictures by Sidney Lumet. All the more reason to take good care of the ones he left behind.”

By Guy Stridsigne and Britta R. Moline (6/27/2011)


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