Netowrk film Peter finch

Last night i sat down and watched a film that totally and unexpectedly blew me away, not just for the quality of acting, writing and directorship that was on display, but for the fact that it told a story that seems more real and relevant that it was in 1976. The film was Network and here’s why it’s essential viewing. Network is the beautifully interwoven story of a (fictional) top 4 network in the US (UBS) and exploitation in front of and behind the camera. The film manages to capture perfectly the current mood of television, it’s manipulation, the march to ratings over quality and the damaging consequences this march unleashes.

The character of Howard Beale drives this film. A magnificent performance from Peter Finch (who won a posthumous Oscar for his portrayal) the rantings of a depressed, widowed drunk anchorman with falling ratings are at first censured by the ‘Network’ (Read; the characters of Diana Christensen and Frank Hackett – Faye Dunnaway and Robert Duvall respectively) yet when his rant on the ‘bullshit’ of humanity causes ratings to jump, this damaged man is promoted as a ‘prophet’ prodded to bare his nihilistic worldview to the masses, sparking a mass movement. The character of Howard Beale starts to resemble  ‘comedic’ rantings of the Glenn Beck/Fox News variety.

The film is a black comedy, yet is so subtle the laughs are sparing, the whole absurdity of these peoples lives, from the producer Max Schumacher who upholds all that was good of Journalism (frequently citing Edward R. Murrow with Beale early on in the film)  is skewered by his own ego and desires for Christensen (A brilliant performance from William Holden, how he never won an Oscar is staggering) and to the owner of the parent company, (played by Ned Beatty) who delivers an emphatic and distorted worldview monologue to the delusional Beale that’s as absurd as it is true for of our times.

Throw in a neat little side plot about a revolutionary street gang (not too dissimilar to the SLA) and a Communist Party revolutionary with a sharp rhetoric and an even sharper knowledge of profits with very real backdrop of recession/depression that mirrors our own circumstances and you have a tour-de-force of a movie. It’s worth two hours of your time and sure will make you think.

The legendary ‘mad as hell’ speech

The primal forces of nature

Where ‘mad as hell’ ends up….

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