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Dog Day Afternoon

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In August 1972 John Wojtowicz, a garrulous and unapologetically larger-than-life New Yorker, found 15 minutes of fame and then some when his attempt to rob the Chase Manhattan bank in Manhattan in August 1972 turned into a 14-hour hostage negotiation on live TV. It wasn’t just the siege which made the story such a spectacle. Mr Wojtowicz’s motivation caught the imagination: he needed the money to fund his male lover’s sex change operation.

Sidney Lumet’s gripping movie version showcases a bravura performance from Al Pacino as the married, unhappy, decent, confused bank robber (here called Sonny). The movie’s matter-of-fact treatment of its gay hero never gets sanctimonious, but Pacino and Chris Sarandon work up tremendous pathos in their desperate telephone heart to heart. This was a landmark in positive (or at least, sympathetic) representation. Lumet does it all without a score, too. (“If the first obligation was to tell the audience that this event really happened, how could you justify music weaving in and out?” he said.)

More than just another heist movie… It’s a gripping picture of a city close to meltdown. From Lumet’s dazzling opening montage in which we see scenes of a city about to boil over in more ways than one, sweltering 70s New York becomes a raucous character in the movie. 1972’s cultural melee is perfectly invoked as the heist transforms into a counter-cultural jamboree with a botched bank robbery as its central piece of performance art. Only, as they say, in the 70s.

Adam Smith, Empire

Brisk, humorous and alive with urban energies and angers fretting through the 92 degree heat.

Sight & Sound

Director

Sidney Lumet

Cast

Al Pacino, John Cazale, Charles Durning, Chris Sarandon, Penelope Allen, James Broderick

Credits
Country of Origin

USA

Year

1975

Language

English

Awards

Best Screenplay, Academy Awards 1976

19+
125 min

Book Tickets

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Credits

Producer

Martin Bregman, Martin Elfand

Screenwriter

Frank Pierson

Cinematography

Victor J. Kemper

Editor

Dede Allen

Production Design

Charles Bailey

Art Director

Doug Higgins

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