Dog Day Afternoon
Directed by Sidney Lumet
Written by Frank Pierson, based on an article by P.F. Kluge and Thomas Moore and a book by Leslie Waller although apparently the screenplay was extensively workshopped and a lot of the lines were improvised by the actors and accepted by the director.
Al Pacino plays Sonny, the leader for a rag tag group who rob a bank very poorly. He looks just like a Beatle in Hard Day’s Night, and everything goes wrong in a rather entertaining way.
The cinematography is amazing, like a snapshot of the city of New York in the seventies. It’s all based on a true story, apparently. It’s pretty intense, and the level of failure on Sonny’s side makes it believable that it’s true.
The movie deals with a lot of big issues, the effects of pressure on a person, the effect of media on a situation, capitalism, gay rights and a mob – the importance of winning the mob over to your side and the power of that. It’s very powerful when Sonny starts chanting Attica! Attica! and when he gets the police to holster their guns, with the crowd cheering for him.
Unlike movies of a similar story made more recently. probably since the late 90ns, there’s a lot of people talking at the same time. Sonny and the police negotiator yell over each other and it makes it feel very real. In more modern movies you’re much more likely to get gravelly voiced dudes saying their lines with a lot of forced intensity in quick cuts back and forth which are easy to follow. I think the shouting and confusion heightens the drama and makes it feel more real.
Does it make me love the people? You are definitely rooting for Sonny, he’s trying to do something and he’s in over his head for sure. Plus, he’s a bisexual who clearly loves his boyfriend enough to rob a bank for him! Not that they ever use the term bisexual. It’s used briefly as ‘shocking’ news on the TV coverage, but the characters we actually know in the film are mostly not fazed by it, which is refreshing. Sonny’s behaviour doesn’t really change once he’s outed, and he’s not depicted as any more or less of a decent person, which was hugely refreshing, and I suspect was kind of shocking for the time. The conversation between Sonny and his lover are quite heart breaking.
Sonny is especially moving in the scene in which he dictates his will to one of the hostages, his face bleak and his voice somewhat defeated. He expresses his love for his female wife and for his pre-op trans wife as well.
I also loved Sylvia, the head teller. She was hilarious and stoic and stubborn, speaking out again and again.
Bechdel test: Yes, Sylvia to a number of the other named women hostages at various points.
“Out of the closet, into the streets!”
but perhaps more relevant to current state of affairs in America…
Sonny: [notices other officers moving toward him] What is he doing?
Det. Sgt. Eugene Moretti: [shouts at officers] Will you get back there!
Sonny: What are you moving in there for?
Det. Sgt. Eugene Moretti: [runs toward closing officers] Will you get the fuck back there! Get back there will you!
Sonny: [to the other officers moving toward him] What’s he doing? Go back there man! He wants to kill me so bad he can taste it! Huh? ATTICA! ATTICA! ATTICA! ATTICA ATTICA! ATTICA! ATTICA! ATTICA! ATTICA! ATTICA!
State of Mind: D: In a similar line to Blow Out, I really enjoyed the style of this film, it’s a really different form of movie making to the action films of today. I love the attention to character, and the weirdness of the crowd outside. The way the people involved would mug for the cameras of the media and the crowd, but the ending was pretty sad. I’d probably watch it again though…