Magazine article American Cinematographer

Dog Day Afternoon (1975)

Magazine article American Cinematographer

Dog Day Afternoon (1975)

Article excerpt

Dog Day Afternoon (1975)

Special Edition

1.85:1 (16x9 Enhanced)

Dolby Digital 2.0

Warner Home Video, $26.98

Dog Day Afternoon opens with a series of shots that are superficially simple yet convey a number of themes and emotions. Cutting between images of Manhattan's majesty and its poverty, director Sidney Lumet and editor Dede Alien include one shot that foreshadows the fate of one of the films main characters, a composition in which the beautiful city can be seen in the background while a cemetery occupies the foreground. The tension between what the city promises and what it takes away is just one of the many issues explored in this complex and enduring masterpiece.

Like Lumet's first feature, 12 Angry Men, Dog Day Afternoon confines itself to limited locations. Most of it takes place inside a bank that is being robbed by Sonny (Al Pacino), a gay man who needs money to finance his partner's sex-change operation. Yet the movie is never static, thanks to the breadth of ideas and the kinetic camerawork by director of photography Victor J. Kemper, ASC. Frank Pierson deservedly won an Oscar for his screenplay, which uses a confined time and space to explore a wealth of subjects, among them the media's influence on public perception, the desperation of those marginalized by society, and the emotional and financial pressures of marital relationships.

Kemper's well-choreographed camerawork relies on constant movement, yet the technique never seems ostentatious or obvious; the cinematographer respects the film's nonfiction origins (it is based on a true story) by allowing the characters' actions and emotions to motivate the moves. Kemper also adheres to an organic lighting approach in which all of the illumination comes from realistically motivated sources. The bank scenes are lit with fluorescents (except for one sequence that takes place during a power outage), and night exteriors are sourced by police searchlights, car headlights and other practicals. …

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