MAKING MOVIES by Sidney Lumet


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 Making movies may be ``hard work,'' as the veteran director continually reminds us throughout this slight volume, but Lumet's simple-minded writing doesn't make much of a case for that or for anything else. Casual to a fault and full of movie-reviewer clichÇs, Lumet's breezy how-to will be of little interest to serious film students, who will find his observations obvious and silly (``Acting is active, it's doing. Acting is a verb''). Lumet purports to take readers through the process of making a movie, from concept to theatrical release--and then proceeds to share such trade secrets as his predilection for bagels and coffee before heading out to a set and his obsessive dislike for teamsters. Lumet's vigorously anti-auteurist aesthetic suits his spotty career, though his handful of good movies (Serpico, Dog Day Afternoon, Prince of the City, and Q&A) seem to have quite a lot in common visually and thematically as gutsy urban melodramas. Lumet's roots in the theater are obvious in many of his script choices, from Long Day's Journey into Night to Child's Play, Equus, and Deathtrap. ``I love actors,'' he declares, but don't expect any gossip, just sloppy kisses to Paul Newman, Al Pacino, and ``Betty'' Bacall. Lumet venerates his colleague from the so-called Golden Age of TV, Paddy Chayevsky, who scripted Lumet's message-heavy Network. Style, Lumet avers, is ``the way you tell a particular story''; and the secret to critical and commercial success? ``No one really knows.'' The ending of this book, full of empty praise for his fellow artists, reads like a dry run for an Academy Lifetime Achievement Award, the standard way of honoring a multi-Oscar loser. There's a pugnacious Lumet lurking between the lines of this otherwise smarmy book, and that Lumet just might write a good one someday.

Pub Date: March 27th, 1995
ISBN: 0-679-43709-6
Page count: 224pp
Publisher: Knopf
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1st, 1995


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