Showing posts with label Sidney Lumet. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Sidney Lumet. Show all posts

Sunday, 26 May 2013

Six of the Best... First Films

Some film directors are able to maintain success over several decades and get bums on seats or haul awards for almost every film. A select few are able to do both. Whether successful or not, every director has to start somewhere. Steven Spielberg started promisingly with Duel in 1971 and Martin Scorsese’s debut Who’s That Knocking at My Door has its charms but neither film set the world alight. Some director’s though burst onto the scene with critically acclaimed works in what is their debut feature. With often minimal experience, little support and tight budgets, several directors have created debut films which astound audiences and critics alike. Here are Six of the Best…

1. Quentin Tarantino – Reservoir Dogs (1992)
Although he had shot the amateur My Best Friend’s Birthday in the mid to late 1980s, Tarantino’s Reservoir Dogs was his first real feature. A dialogue driven heist movie, the film was a hit on its initial release and has since gained cult status. Many of the tropes that have come to define the director’s career are evident in the movie and a lot of people, including myself, still consider it amongst his best work. Its bold, violent approach set it apart from the action heavy thrillers of the time and an impeccably neat script not only impressed audiences but also the actor Harvey Keitel who liked it so much that he co-funded, produced and agreed to star in the movie. The direction is slightly more conventional than in his later work but is still recognisably ‘Tarantino’ with long, slow dialogue heavy scenes interspersed with frantic action and innovative camera movement. Reservoir Dogs was released independent of the major studios and as such it afforded the director the freedom rarely found in modern cinema to follow his ideas through to completion unmolested.

Sunday, 3 March 2013

Dog Day Afternoon

I watched Dog Day Afternoon for the first time about eight years ago when I discovered the films of Robert De Niro and Al Pacino concurrently through the likes of The Godfather. Since that first watch I’ve seen the movie about once every eighteen months or so and it has become one of my favourite films. For me Dog Day Afternoon has everything I could possibly want. It shows New York at its grimy and dirty height, it’s brilliantly funny and tense and features one of Pacino’s greatest roles. If they could digitally add Scarlett Johansson as one of the bank tellers, I’d watch the film daily.

The movie is based on a true story. Sonny Wortzik (Pacino) and Sal Naturile (John Cazale) walk into a Brooklyn bank on a summer’s day with the idea of robbing it. It isn’t long before things start to go wrong and the robbery turns into a farce. Soon the cops have the bank surrounded and Sonny and Sal are left inside with eight hostages and nowhere to go. The hours roll on and the scene attracts the media and onlookers alike, all of whom want a glimpse of the action. Sonny becomes an anti-hero to the gathering crowd after evoking the memory of the Attica prison riots. As the night draws in Sonny decides his best way out is to arrange for a jet to take him and Sal out of the country, a request which the police begin to arrange.

Monday, 9 July 2012

Before the Devil Knows You're Dead

"Andy... that's Mom and Dad's store"

Two brothers (Phillip Seymour Hoffman & Ethan Hawke) in very different situations but both desperately in need of money decide to rob their parents Jewellery store. As you’d expect the heist goes wrong and leaves one family member dead while the others try to come to terms with the consequences.

I don’t want to give anymore away than that as spoilers are like a minefield with this film. It is presented in a non linier way with scenes chopping back and forth through the narrative, often from different perspectives. It’s never difficult to follow though. While the back and forth storytelling was interesting I didn’t feel that the different points of view made a difference. I had never heard of this movie and was recommended it by our building’s concierge. As a result I didn’t know what to expect but I was pleasantly surprised when the excellent cast popped up on screen. Each time a new character came on screen I was thinking “ooh its Hoffman, ooh it’s Hawke. Ooh Albert Finney’s in this. And Rosemary Harris. Ahh, Marisa Tomei (with her contractual topless scenes). Cool, Amy Ryan. Ah, nice one it’s Michael Shannon”. The cast is excellent. The film however isn’t.

Thursday, 10 May 2012

12 Angry Men

"Prejudice always obscures the truth"

1957 – New York. A Jury of twelve men have finished hearing the trial of a young immigrant man accused of murdering his father by stabbing him to death. After a brief vote in a sweltering deliberation room the vote is 11/1 in favour of a guilty verdict. The jury have been informed by the Judge that they must reach a unanimous decision. Voices are raised and tempers fray as the twelve men debate the case that could send a man to the Electric Chair.

This film has one of the most compelling stories I have ever seen. I couldn’t take my eyes off it for a minute. I was afraid of blinking or turning my head to check the time in case I missed a vital detail. This really is masterful story telling. In the beginning it is just Henry Fonda’s ‘Juror number 8’ character who votes not guilty but as the film progresses he and others question statements and evidence until more and more of the jurors have doubts. It is fairly obvious from early on what the outcome is going to be but that doesn’t matter. How they reach the decision is fascinating.