Dedications: My four late friends Rory, Stan, Bryan, Jeff - shine on you crazy diamonds, they would have blogged too. Then theres Garry from Brisbane, Franco in Milan, Mike now in S.F. / my '60s-'80s gang: Ned & Joseph in Ireland; in England: Frank, Des, Guy, Clive, Joe & Joe, Ian, Ivan, Nick, David, Les, Stewart, the 3 Michaels / Catriona, Sally, Monica, Jean, Ella, Anne, Candie / and now: Daryl in N.Y., Jerry, John, Colin, Martin and Donal.

Friday, 15 April 2011

Sidney Lumet RIP

Sidney Lumet [1924-2011] was indeed one of the most prolific directors ever since he began making movies in 1957 with 12 ANGRY MEN. Like John Frankenheimer and others he began in the golden age of live television.

He worked in lots of genres throughout the 60s - THE FUGITIVE KIND, THE PAWNBROKER, THE HILL, FAIL-SAFE, THE GROUP, THE DEADLY AFFAIR, THE SEAGULL, BYE BYE BRAVERMAN, then there was the failure of the cod-Antonioni THE APPOINTMENT which would have emptied cinemas if it ever played in them - but Lumet certainly hit some peaks in the '70s with MURDER ON THE ORIENT EXPRESS and those great New York movies like DOG DAY AFTERNOON and SERPICO, and of course NETWORK, followed by THE VERDICT and PRINCE OF THE CITY. Another theatrical one was his film of the hit play EQUUS in '77. THE WIZ though seems to have been a misfire - I had no interest in seeing it or a lot of his later films.

Always terrific with actors and staging - the murder in THE DEADLY AFFAIR for instance - it is a terrific legacy of solid middle-brow, thought-provoking enterainment with some great performances [Signoret, Finch, Dunaway, Holden, Brando, Magnani, Steiger, Mason, Pacino etc], (I trust that does not sound too patronising).

Here are a few I cherish: STAGE STRUCK from '58 with a nice role for Joan Greenwood; the film of Arthur Miller's A VIEW FROM THE BRIDGE with Raf Vallone and Jean Sorel, the 1959 drama THAT KIND OF WOMAN, not seen until a year or two ago - where kept woman Loren has to choose between soldier Tab Hunter or wealthy George Sanders - only flaw for me was it said it was 1944 but what we see on screen in pure 1959; and the ensemble in LONG DAY'S JOURNEY INTO NIGHT in 1962 where the 4 cast members won the Venice Film Festival acting prize, providing perfect late roles for Katharine Hepburn and Ralph Richardson.


  1. “Long Day’s Journey into the Night” by Sidney Lumet (based on Eugene O’Neill’s play) is a film about family life – about a common destiny, how we cope with problems of personal relationships, how we treat one another inside our families, how human soul becomes part of the family soul, and how our social life competes and coexists with our family obligations and dedications.
    When we today watch the life of Tyrone family in the beginning of 20th century, we are amazed at how much American family relations have changed after only one hundred years. Our main difference from the Tyrones is not how much we have developed in our ability to be wiser and kinder to people we love and live with. The picture is, rather, the opposite – how much emotional sensitivity, mental maneuverability in adapting to each other, empathy and sympathy we have lost for these years of our country’s “democratic development”, and the major losses, it seems, happened during the last thirty years.
    Watching “Long Day’s…” is an educational and a psycho-dramatic experience mobilizing our introspection and our ability to observe our emotional reactions (in comparison with that of Tyrone family members) more objectively. James, Mary and their two grown-up sons (Jamie and Edmund) are born in the very midst of traditional Christianity and, together with American culture are going through the process of secularization of worldview. A father who was a famous Shakespearean actor still maintains a religious psychology (that Lumet analyses in detail), although a refracted one by his exposition to the grace of serious art. Mary, his wife, personifies martyrdom aspect of religious psychology - she suffers for being a “bad mother and wife” but her self-judgment is severe because of spiritual perfectionism of her worldview. James and Mary’s sons try to rebel against religious authoritarianism – they personify correspondingly two aspects of post-religious spirituality, Jamie – its intellectual aspect, and Edmund – its artistic-mystical aspect.
    While experiencing the film we feel that we have to learn a lot from the of the beginning of previous century, that our everyday communications with each other are cognitively flat and thin and emotionally narrow and petty in comparison with theirs. Instead of honest arguments, as they had, we have “premature ejaculations” of clashes, frustrations and sulking. Instead of positive confrontations we choose people (to be with) by the principle of similarity, and we are isolated from the otherness of other people and of the world around. Because Lumet concentrates on the psychological confrontations between characters and on the truths coming out of it the film is very interesting to watch – our life today with all its distractions from our humanity to entertaining (consumerist) images of Hollywood blockbusters, TV soups of soaps and pop-singing is much more boring than they had way back then.
    The acting of Jason Robards and Dean Stockwell is not just dramatic but poetic, not just truthful but gracious, and Mary Tyrone of Katharine Hepburn is her best work on screen, while Ralph Richardson was able not only to open the heart of James Tyrone for the viewers but sharply depicted his psychological defenses.
    By Victor Enyutin

  2. Thanks indeed for that very detailed analysis of the film, I really must see it again now very soon.