The Pequod Review:
Sidney Lumet’s Making Movies is one of the more clear-headed and practical guides to filmmaking. Lumet has a deep enthusiasm for his craft, and while his book is breezy and conversational, he is serious about his methods and philosophy:
In music, everything from a sonata to a symphony uses changes in tempo as a basic part of its form. Typically, a four-movement sonata will change not only its musical themes in each movement, but also its tempo in each movement and sometimes even within each movement.
Similarly, if a picture is edited in the same tempo for its entire length, it will feel much longer. It doesn’t matter if five cuts per minute or five cuts every ten minutes are being used. If the same pace is maintained throughout, it will start to feel slower and slower. In other words, it’s the change in tempo that we feel, not the tempo itself.
Lenses have different characteristics. No lens truly sees what the human eye sees, but the lenses that come closest are the midrange lenses, from 28 mm to 40 mm. Wide-angle lenses (9 mm to 24 mm) tend to distort the picture; the wider the lens, the greater the distortion. The distortions are spatial. Objects seem farther apart, especially objects lined up from foreground to background. Vertical lines seem to be forced closer together at the top of the frame. Longer lenses (from 50 mm upward) compress the space…
All good work requires self-revelation.
I also enjoyed his section on 12 Angry Men, which includes a discussion of how he gradually lowered the shooting angle over the course of the film to heighten the viewer’s sense of claustrophobia.