sound turned low: a movie blog

"it's like black and white tv with the sound turned low" -- rumble fish

Saturday, 9 April 2011

So Long, Sidney Lumet

One of my favourite directors, Sidney Lumet died today, and as I heard about it on the news, there was one scene that immediately sprang to mind. Dog Day Afternoon was one of the films that really made me love film; it contains so many wonderful, moving, funny and heart-breaking moments, it's unimaginable.

The two-disc DVD of it is a treat, there's fantastic audio commentary by Lumet, as well as several fun features. It's a great tribute to a great film. My favourite scene is the one where Sonny calls Leon, and they have the saddest heart-to-heart ever captured on screen. All credit to Frank Pierson for the beautiful dialogue.

A phonecall between two estranged lovers, who know they probably won't see each other again. There's cops listening in on the conversation and it's just awkward as hell. It's only that scene that the estrangement between Sonny and Leon becomes so painfully clear to the viewer and you realise just exactly how bleak their situation is -- not with any big revelations of unhappiness, but everyday chit-chat that just goes round in circles. It's the precise moment Sonny loses any hope he had left.

It's five minutes between Al Pacino and Chris Sarandon. On the DVD commentary, Sidney Lumet explains how they shot it. The phonecall between Sonny and Leon ("his male wife", as Lumet puts it) and Sonny and his female wife Angie took about 14 minutes to film, but as a film reel only holds ten minutes and Lumet wanted to film the scenes consecutively, Lumet set up two cameras and curtained Pacino off from the rest of the set. The other actors were on the end of the phone, acting with Pacino.

After they did the first take, Lumet told Pacino he wanted to go again, and "he looked like I'd shot him, cos he was exhausted". It's the moment after the phonecall with Leon, when he drops his eyes.

"The only thing that was missing in the brilliance of the performance, was the exhaustion of having been there since two-thirty that afternoon, and we were now maybe ten at night, and the exhaustion of doing it a second time shows in his face and that was the reason for going again." -- Sidney Lumet

It's not on YouTube, but I promise you it's worth buying the DVD for.

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