Q: You've talked about the irony of how some critics referred to Prince of the City as "realistic" whereas you deliberately made it in a more expressive style—in terms of the lenses you used, forced perspectives, making certain objects prominent in the frame. It's almost as if you did your job too well, because the viewer does get caught up in the emotional reality of the story.
A: Prince of the City is a highly stylized movie. And one of the reasons I'm glad it's not discussed from a stylistic point of view is, to me, it's bad style if people spot it. However, I'm not letting critics off the hook. You're a critic because you should be able to spot it. You know, you're not a critic just for your opinion. My elevator man has got an opinion. Theoretically, you know movies enough technically so that you can recognize what lenses are being used, so that you can recognize a color palette. The color palette in The Verdict is wonderful and so carefully worked out. You know the color blue appears only once in that movie? I couldn't get the sky out of the shot. And I looked for a way to change the lens, but I needed that lens for another reason. But that kind of control on a movie is what my work is about.
And then I said, "Wow, I didn't notice that about The Verdict at all," and then Lumet punched me in the mouth and said "Go! And never darken my towels again!" and then...
But seriously, that's from my 2007 interview with Lumet, in the Fall edition of the DGA Quarterly for that year. The whole thing is available on line here. I put this up as my contribution to the Great "What Should A Film Critic Know" Debate Of 2014, of which this Criticwire survey response and this impassioned manifesto by Matt Zoller Seitz are major parts.
For some reason I am also reminded of Martin Scorsese's recollection of Sergio Leone's reaction to Scorsese's The King of Comedy: "When it was shown at the first night of the Cannes Festival, I went backstage with Sergio Leone and he looked at me and said, 'Martin, that's your most mature film.' I don't know if it was his way of saying he didn't like it. I guess that comes to mind because over the years my friends and I have had a running joke about slow movies, where the camera doesn't move, as being 'mature.'"