How is a movie made, and what exactly does a director do? In Making Movies, Sidney Lumet, the award-winning director of over thirty-five films including 12 Angry Men, Murder on the Orient Express,/i>, Dog Day Afternoon and The Verdict, provides the first and only book by a working, professional director to illuminate every circumstance, internal and external, emotional and technical, involved in the arduous process that culminates in what we see on the big screen. Only the director knows what's behind what an audience sees and hears with every passing frame of film. Only the director is aware of the complex series of details and decisions involved, from budget considerations to divine inspiration, from the earliest rehearsal to the final screening. Lumet's knowledge of the art and craft of directing is encyclopaedic, and here he discusses with clarity and candour everything from art direction and wardrobe, shooting and editing, the verbal and mechanical sound tracks, to the distribution and marketing of a film and the role of the studio. Making Movies is at once a veritable textbok on the ins and outs of directing, and an engaging, focused personal examination of the work of the American film-maker. Of writers he says: 'I come from the theatre. There, the writer's work is sacred.' Of actors: 'I don't want a life reproduced up there on the screen. I want life created.' And of the camera itself: 'If my movie has two stars in it, I always know it really has three. The third is the camera.' This is a book that, like its author, is straightforward, wonderfully opinionated, unpretentious, and above all, in love with the movies.
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 cliches, 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. (Kirkus Reviews)