How about a double shot of Sidney Lumet?
With the exception of the midnight movie at the Inwood Theatre, North Texas isn’t much of an area for repertory film. That makes the chance to see two of Lumet’s finest movies — 1957’s 12 Angry Men and 1976’s Network — on the big screen a rare treat.
The festival thought it would be a nice idea to show 12 Angry Men because it is also showing 12, a Russian adaptation of the story on Friday night. I suppose the addition of Network makes this a mini Sidney Lumet Tribute.
For those unfamiliar, 12 Angry Men centers on a group of jurors packed into a deliberation room “on the hottest day of the year” trying to determine if a young man killed his father. To check their starting position, the group takes a vote — if everyone says guilty, no point in wasting away the day talking things out, right? That’s the sentiment of 11 of the jurors, but Juror No. 8 (Henry Fonda) is the lone holdout, saying that when a man’s life is at stake, he at least deserves a little consideration. As the jurors actually talk through the trial, they become less and less sure about their verdict. As the uncertainty builds, so does the discomfort.
12 Angry Men was Lumet’s first feature film, but he shows the deft touch of a veteran in ratcheting up the tension as the story moves along. Outside of a short courtroom scene at the start and a postscipt on the courthouse steps, the entire movie takes place inside the jury room. Lumet, with the assistance of ace cinematographer Boris Kaufman (On the Water Front), accentuates the sense of claustrophobia by shooting the first third of the movie for the most part above eye level, the middle at eye level and the final segment from below eye level. The result is a feeling that even the room itself is closing in on these guys. When Fonda finally emerges outside the courthouse after a decision is made, he (and he viewer) are at long last able to breathe again.
After Martin Scorsese finally took home the directing Oscar for The Departed two years ago, Lumet is arguably the best living director never to win the award. He was nominated for both 12 Angry Men and Network, plus for two more films — 1975’s Dog Day Afternoon and 1982’s The Verdict.
At 84 years old, it’s unlikely he’ll get another chance at Oscar glory (though he was given an honorary award in 2005). But at least film festivals like Lone Star are making sure that his work continues to be seen.
12 Angry Men screens at 3:30 p.m. at the AMC Palace 1. Network screens at 6 p.m. at the same place. For a complete schedule of Sunday’s films, click here.