Blog Directory CineVerse: Bank robber blues

Bank robber blues

Thursday, November 2, 2017

"Dog Day Afternoon" often plays as a comedy but ends as a tragedy, all the while ticking away as a fine psychological drama and mild thriller filled with fine performances and fascinating characters that were hallmarks of early 1970s cinema. The movie has a lot to say about the power of the media, sociocultural politics, LGBT awareness, and the deep state of mistrust and pessimism that pervaded our culture in the mid-1970s.

Here's a roundup of the major discussion points from our CineVerse meeting yesterday:

WHAT MAKES DOG DAY AFTERNOON STAND OUT FROM OTHER FILMS AND HOW WOULD IT HAVE BEEN BOLD AND DISTINCTIVE UPON ITS RELEASE IN 1975

  • It tackles the subject of a gay relationship with honesty and matter-of-factness.
  • There is no proper score written for the film, although it does feature a pop song by Elton John at the beginning. 
  • It employs an anti-authority theme that criticizes police brutality, the Watergate era, and the Vietnam war.
  • It explores the power of the media and the nature of the 15 minutes of fame axiom.
  • It has a very authentic feel, thanks to it being based on true story; consider that it’s shot on location in New York, uses natural lighting, and has a spontaneous, improvisational feel to it
HOW IS SONNY A WONDERFULLY INTERESTING STUDY IN CONTRADICTIONS?
  • He often seems to be in total control, then doesn’t have the slightest idea what to do next.
  • He’s the hero and the anti-hero of the film: you root for him, but he’s a criminal breaking the law.
  • He’s married with children yet is also married to a man.
  • He has a gay male partner and a straight male bank robber partner.
  • His greatest flaw is his compassion: he’s constantly trying to make things right for others, but things fail miserably when he does so.
  • He’s cheered on by the crowd for essentially breaking the law, yet rejected by many in that same crowd for being gay, which is not illegal.
HOW IS DOG DAY AFTERNOON SOMEWHAT LIKE SPIKE LEE’S “DO THE RIGHT THING?”
  • Both films take place in New York on one very hot summer day.
  • Both pictures end violently and tragically.
  • Both films leave us with no easy answers or straightforward morals to the story.
HOW DOES DOG DAY AFTERNOON TREAT THE SUBJECT OF HOMOSEXUALITY?
  • It doesn’t pander or resort to overplayed clich├ęs or stereotypes. Ask yourself: did you suspect Sonny of being gay before it is revealed?
  • It shows the Sonny-Leon relationship objectively, fairly, treating it impartially; it’s given equal time compared to Sonny’s relationship with his wife.
ARE WOMEN GIVEN THE SHORT SHRIFT IN THIS FILM? WHAT DID YOU THINK ABOUT SOME OF THE FEMALE CHARACTERS?
  • It gives somewhat negative portrayals of Sonny’s mother and female wife. They seem to be shrill, unattractive, inattentive listeners and out of touch with his needs; some theorize that these qualities prompt Sonny to come out of the closet and prefer a gay relationship.
  • Yet, some of the women hostages are shown as strong and brave.
FILMS SIMILAR TO DOG DAY AFTERNOON:
  • John Q
  • Inside Man
  • Quick Change
  • The Town
  • Rabid Dogs
  • Hell or Highwater
OTHER FILMS DIRECTED BY SIDNEY LUMET
  • 12 Angry Men
  • Long Day’s Journey into Night
  • The Pawnbroker
  • Fail Safe
  • Serpico
  • Murder on the Orient Express
  • Network
  • The Verdict
  • Before the Devil Knows You’re Dead

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