Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Essential Cinema – 51



Directed by - Sidney Lumet

Writing credits - Paddy Chayefsky

Fred C. Caruso .... producer
Howard Gottfried .... producer

Original Music - Elliot Lawrence

Cinematography by - Owen Roizman

Faye Dunaway ... Diana Christensen
William Holden ... Max Schumacher
Peter Finch ... Howard Beale
Robert Duvall ... Frank Hackett
Wesley Addy ... Nelson Chaney
Ned Beatty ... Arthur Jensen

A major television network beset by low ratings and declining revenues seeks new and questionable methods to increase their audience share and boost profits.

As we age, things go crazy. While this is a dated film, released in 1976, it is still scary just how accurate and relevant it remains today. It shows the decline of the media into a pandering boredom killer that manipulates the masses in the name of global greed.

Since my distain for the media has been growing larger and larger over the past several years, culminating with my wife and I pulling the plug on cable television recently, I thought it would be a good idea to dust this copy of ‘Network’ off from my LaserDisc collection and watch it one more time. It has been years since I have seen it, but the last viewing left a pretty strong impression on me.

The concept of the film is still dead on. While it is very dated, shot in a world where there was no cable television, no internet, no cell phones and large gas guzzling cars, the message it deliveries is strangely more relevant today than it was back when it was made.

The film has several levels and plot lines, but most come back to center on the concept of those in power and how they use it for good or how they abuse it for their own gain. In the end the film asks the question, should we be human or should we be humanoids that just go through the motions and be happy with what television gives us.

The relationship between William Holden’s ‘Max Schumacher’ and Faye Dunaway’s ‘Diana Christensen’ is amazing to watch. They are both very good actors that get the most out of every scene and word of dialog, and back in the day Ms. Dunaway was a real looker.

But the best part of the film is without a doubt Peter Finch’s insane news anchor Howard Beale. His lunatic rants about society and the ‘Bull Shit’ of the networks still rings as true today as they did four decades ago. They still make me want to stand up and yell “I’m mad as hell, and I am not going to take this anymore!”

There are some cons about the film. Its dated look makes it a bit harder to relate to today. The world has changed and it now seems odd to watch high powered executives reaching for rotary dial phones to make important calls, when cell phones and computers are now the norm. The film slowly fizzles at the end, and the final scenes sort of leave you wondering and disappointed, but then again, where could it go? The concept of planning corporate murder for dollars isn’t impossible, but seemed somewhat contrived in this film. It either has to end with a bang or a whimper. They chose bang, in the literal sense of the word.

I will add, that the scene between Peter Finch and Ned Beatty, where the Communications Corporation of America (CCA) CEO explains the ways of the world and how Howard Beale is meddling in things he cannot understand in the darkened corporate board room, is probably one of the best lessons in world politics and economics that has been put on film. It should be worth college credit.

This film is a part of my LaserDisc Collection which is located on the LaserDisc Database.

Clicking here will take you to a listing of all the "Essential Cinema" reviews in my Blog.