Lumet's 1995 book, Making Movies, is a must-read for filmmakers and movie lovers. Here are a few of my favorite passages:
"With Serpico, I was constantly ambivalent about hiss character. He was such a pain in the ass sometimes. Always kvetching. Al Pacino made me love him, not the scripted character. The Seagull is totally ambivalent about behavior. Everyone is in love with the wrong person. The teacher Medvedenko loves Masha who loves Konstantin who loves Nina who loves Trigorin who belongs to Arkadina who is really loved by Dr. Dorn who is love by Paulina. But none of this prevent them each from having their own dignity and pathos, despite their seeming foolishness. The ambivalence is a soures of explooring each character in greater and greater depth. Each person is like all of us."
" Once we've agreed on the all-important question "What's this picture about?" we can start in on the details. First comes an examination of each scene--in sequence, of course."
"In melodrama, the story determines the characters. Melodrama makes story line its highest priority, and everything is subservient to story."
"Inevitability doesn't mean predictability."
"From a scene-by-scene breakdown, we move on to a line-by-line examination. Is the line of dialog necessary? Revelatory? Is it saying it in the best possible way?"
"So many of the movies of the thirties and forties that we adore are constant streams of dialogue. Dialogue is not uncinematic." "The point is that there's no war between the visual and the aural."
"The classic definition of tragedy still works: pity and terror or awe, arriving at catharsis."
"As Jean-Luc Godard once said, movies "are twenty-four frames of truth per second."