Guest Author - Amber Grey
When a great filmmaker passes away, it is a sound loss to admirers, fans, and people of the industry. While Lumet's films will live on, it is all the more important for an astute filmmaker such as himself, that he was able to pass on his point-of-view and most of all, his wisdom of filmmaking for current and future generations who have or will find an appreciation for his work. And the aptly titled, "On Making Movies" by Sidney Lumet is that book.
His book "On Making Movies" serves both as a filmmaker's memoir of his work as well as a guide for current and future filmmakers to learn a thing or two about the process of making films. Lumet speaks candidly and passionately about every aspect of the process including pre-production, after the key elements of a film is final but before it starts filming, production and post-production.
In his carefully chosen words, Lumet demonstrates his delicate work ethic in a film coming to fruition and divulges in the creative techniques that made his film masterpieces. For example, the director explains the clever camerawork used in "12 Angry Men" (1957) in which he decided to move the angles closer and closer to the floor. But it was intentional to not make it noticeable so that the audience may feel the increasing tension, anger and heat of the small room as the men deliberate over the young man and his fate for possibly committing murder.
Another instance Lumet notes is in "Dog Day Afternoon" (1975) in which he explains the process of the table reads and how the outcome of those table reads made it possible for Al Pacino to improvise the last speech he gives in the film. It was from those table reads that Lumet and the cast realized that the speech screenwriter Frank Pierson had written didn't translate well enough to use in the actual film. Lumet also reveals how truly moved he was by Pacino's performance when on set the director openly shed a tear or two as the scene unfolded before him.
Oftentimes, Lumet's vernacular may seem somewhat technical and confusing to the average reader, as when he writes about the production of "Murder on the Orient Express" (1974) how complicated it was to shoot on the train. His vocabulary drifts into talking about the special filters used for the cameras and the certain distances that are important when framing a shot. While one may not know exactly what he is talking about, it's exciting to read nonetheless.
Above all else, it is an invaluable read for classic film and Lumet fans alike.
*I used the local library copy of Lumet's book in order to write this review*