By Sidney Lumet
Nancy Buirski lets us participate in an impressive masterclass by the great moralist of American cinema. Based on an excellent long-term interview by the famous documentary filmmaker Daniel Anker, who died during production, Buirski has created an artful collage of Lumet's films which allows a deep insight into the creative workshop of the original New Yorker, who in Hollywood never quite received the accolades he deserved.
Lumet nevertheless enjoyed the highest esteem among the best actors of his time. Actors' praise for directors in Hollywood is mostly professional hypocrisy, but Buirski shows Lumet, with his theatrical roots, as a true “actor-director”. In so doing, many of the stereotypes about inflationary Method Acting are also unmasked. Rather, the considerable importance of resolute Method detractor Stella Adler to the American cinema becomes visible – an instrumental figure for Lumet and many of his actors. Rare recordings from early television works underpin the acting excellence that Lumet's rehearsal-intensive working methods produced.
In addition to outstanding actors, New York itself made its mark on Lumet's films. Buirski's skilful montage allows the urban areas of the Big Apple to become eloquent actors in Lumet's stories, always negotiating substantial moral conflicts in a diversity of genres. In her humorous portrait of the artist as an old man, these conflicts are shown to be Lumet's life themes.
Nancy Buirski is the director, producer and writer of Afternoon of a Faun: Tanaquil Le Clercq that had its world premiere at the 51st New York Film Festival and international premiere at the 64th Berlinale. She is the director, producer and writer of the Peabody and Emmy Award-winning The Loving Story (2011) (HBO). The film was a recipient of a grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities. Buirski is a producer of Harlem Woodstock (Director Alex Gibney), Althea (Director Rex Miller) and consulting producer of Private Violence (Director Cynthia Hill). Buirski founded and was the director of the Full Frame Documentary Film Festival for 10 years. Prior to her work in film, Buirski was the Foreign Picture Editor at The New York Times, garnering the paper its first Pulitzer Prize in photography. Her photo book Earth Angels: Migrant Children in America was published by Pomegranate Press. Prints from the collection were exhibited at the Smithsonian and travelled throughout the U.S. She serves on the Full Frame Board of Advisors and is a member of the Television Academy of Arts and Sciences.