12 Angry Men
A Film by Sydney Lumet
Year : 1954
Run time : 96 minutes
English with English sub titles
5.45 pm ; Sunday, 13th April 2008
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This all-time classic takes place almost entirely in a single room, where 12 jurors debate the fate of a young man accused of killing his father. ‘12 Angry Men‘ is the gripping, penetrating, and engrossing examination of a diverse group of twelve jurors (all male, mostly middle-aged, white, and generally of middle-class status) who are uncomfortably brought together to deliberate after hearing the 'facts' in a seemingly open-and-shut murder trial case.
An eighteen-year old slum kid stands accused of murdering his father. The evidence seems insurmountable. In the preliminary ballot, there are eleven votes for a guilty verdict. The one holdout is Juror #8, played by Henry Fonda. "You really think he's innocent?" asks another man. Fonda: "I don't know."
We never see the trial, save for the judge's final instructions to the jury. Apart from the brief courtroom introduction, and a short closing moment on the courthouse steps, the whole movie takes place inside the jury room.
This is afilm where tension comes from personality conflict, dialogue and body language, not action; where the defendant has been glimpsed only in a single brief shot; where logic, emotion and prejudice struggle to control the field. It is a masterpiece of stylized realism--the style coming in the way the photography and editing comment on the bare bones of the content. Released in 1957, when Technicolor and lush production values were common, "12 Angry Men" was lean and mean.
The choices of shots do not just help us feel immersed in the setting; they're vital to the arc of the story. Lumet, and veteran cinematographer, Boris Kaufman, devised the film as a 'lens plot', shooting in gradually longer lenses, so that as the story progressed, there would be a sensation of the room getting smaller. Further, they shot the first third of the film predominantly above eye level, the middle passages at eye level and the third below eye level, meaning the ceiling eventually became visible, and that too seemed to be closing in. In addition, the use of sweaty close-ups becomes greater as the conclusiongets closer,
pushing us further into faces, and with them the passions of arguments.
A tight script, economical direction and fabulous performances by one of the best ensemble casts in history make this a timeless and great film.The highly talented cast makes this brilliant war of words an entrancing cinema experience.
Henry Fonda is the film's conscience, leading the other men on a path to self-discovery they'd rather not endure. Director Lumet creates energy and movement through quick editing and varying camera angles, which makes the film pulse with power and emotion despite it's one set location. A classic film that deserves your attention.SYDNEY LUMET
Sidney Lumet is nevertheless a master of cinema. Known for his technical knowledge and his skill at getting first-rate performances from his actors--and for shooting most of his films in his beloved New York--Lumet has made over 40 movies, often emotional, but seldom overly sentimental. He often tells intelligent, complex stories. His politics are somewhat left-leaning and he often treats socially relevant themes in his films.
As social criticism, Sidney Lumet addresses throughout his long career on numerous issues related to American society - on corrupt police (Serpico, 1973, The Prince of New York, 1981 and in the Night Falls on Manhattan (1997)), on television (A Dog Day Afternoon, 1975 ), on Justice ( Twelve Angry Men In 1957, The Verdict, 1982 ) on MacCarthyism (Daniel, 1983), on alcoholism (Lendemain From Crime, 1986) and on racism (Counter-survey, 1990).
Born on June 25, 1924, in Philadelphia, the son of actor Baruch Lumet and dancer Eugenia Wermus Lumet, he made his stage debut at age four at the Yiddish Art Theater in New York. He played many roles on Broadway in the 1930s (such as "Dead End"), and his acting debut in films came in One Third of a Nation (1939). In 1947 he started an off-Broadway acting troupe that included such future stars as Yul Brynner and Eli Wallach, and other former members of Lee Strasberg's Actors Studio who had become unsatisfied with Strasberg's concepts.
Lumet made his stage directing debut in 1955. He made his feature film directing debut with the critical and financial hit 12 Angry Men (1957), which won the Golden Bear at the Berlin Film Festival and earned Academy Award nominations for Best Picture, Director and Adapted Screenplay, and is justly regarded as one of the most auspicious directorial debuts in film history.
Lumet has made over 40 movies, which earned nearly 50 Oscar nominations. In 1993 he received the D.W. Griffith Award of theDirectors Guild of America and in 2005 a well-deserved Honorary Academy Award.
Born: 24 August 1897, Bialystok, Russian Empire [now Poland], as son of a bookshop owner.
Died: 24 June 1980, New York City, USA.
Education: Sorbonne University, Paris, France.
Career: Left Russia in 1917. Travelled to Germany and Belgium and arrived in Paris in 1927. Entered film industry in 1928 in France as doph. During WW2 served in the French Army and, after the occupation began, went to the USA in 1942. The unions didn't give him permission to work in Hollywood, so
he turned to doc's. Worked with the National Film Board of Canada [1942-43; helped John Grierson to build a strong doc movement] and the US Office of War Information [OWI]. Retired in 1969.
Appeared in the doc 'Operator Kaufman' [1998, Rasmus Gerlach; ph: R. Gerlach & Irina Linke; 52m]. Was member of the ASC. His brothers Denis Arkadyovich [as Dziga Vertov, 1896-1954] and Mikhail [-1980] were directors.
Awards: 'Oscar' AA [ 1954; b&w] & Golden Globe Award  for 'On the Waterfront'; 'Oscar' AA nom [1956; b&w] for 'Baby Doll'.
The biggest mystery about Kaufman is why he never directed a film. As a rule, any director of photography of his stature and taste for independence will, at least once in his life, wish to sit in the director's seat. Instead, that taste for independence was manifested in both frequent change of pace in his career and contract-free work on films which he obviously cared for, with directors with whom he felt at home. Vigo, Kazan, Lumet: all profited immeasurably from his work; according to Kaufman himself, his was the decision to use a hand-held camera for 'À propos de Nice'; he also convinced Kazan to make 'On the Waterfront' entirely on location. When Kaufman arrived in New York, his intention was to go to Hollywood. The unions were having none of that, however, and so his name disappeared from mainstream cinema, to resurface in the documentary tradition which was, after all, where he had started in France. It's possible that Hollywood might have tamed him, given him a contract at MGM and turned him into an unhappy technician shooting second units on Lassie films. The alternative scenario would give him the opportunity to change the cinematic look of Los Angeles in the same way he did for New York in films like 'On the Waterfront' and 'The Pawnbroker'. [Markku Salmi in 'Film Dope', #29, March 1984.]