Network (DVD)

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Network (DVD)

With stunning prescience, Sidney Lumet's searing satire of television and the contemporary moment chronicles the media's imminent corruption and the p...

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Review of "Network (DVD)"

published 24/05/2009 | paulie1975
Member since : 13/05/2008
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Excellent
Pro Wonderful script, acting, direction and film
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"I'm mad as hell and i'm not going to take it anymore"

I watched this film the other day and it has immediately become one of my favourite films of all time. In essence its a biting satire on television and the way it was becoming less about education and fun and more about ratings at any cost.

The film was made in 1976 but has a stinging resonance today which is possibly even more relevant than it was when made.

So whats it about:

Howard Beale (Peter Finch) is a Network news anchorman, a journalist who has spent his life perfecting his craft, one day his best friend Max Schumacher (William Holden) is forced to tell him that they are getting rid of him, its not Schumachers choice, its the networks as his ratings aren't as high as those of other news anchormen.

In his next tv news report Beale announces he is being forced to quit and that he will kill himself live on air on his last day. This causes understandable media uproar and the rise in his ratings causes the network a real quandry, Beale asks to go one one last time to wish his viewers goodbye in a classy manner, assuring Schumacher he will not kill himself. When on air he does say goodbye but then follows it with a rant about television and about life in general, he is powerfully emotive and almost prophetic in his cutting comments and they prove to be a ratings winner. The film then follows the Network as the allow Beale to be a prophet of the airwaves whose views are scathing and have great power over viewers. More than that the film follows Schmacher as he loses his job and leaves his wife to be with his mistress, the network manager (Faye Dunaway) it also follows complex network deals with the middle east which Beale reveals on air and causes huge problems for his organisation.

The Characters:

Howard Beale (Peter Finch) - An oscar winning performance, Beale is a mad prophet of the airwaves, it is left to you to decide whether he is actually mad or simply so frustrated with the way television has gone, he invents a persona to allow him to air those frustrations, he is demonic, powerful in his rhetoric and you can see the chord he strikes with his viewers, his scenes are mainly on television but when seen with Schumacher we see the real Beale a man who is still thinking properly and simply wants to play the players. His catchphrase becomes that of a disillusioned nation in the cry 'I'm mad as hell and i'm not going to take this anymore'. Beale is not in the film as much as other characters but provides a voice of reason to television viewers worldwide. As Beale puts it 'This is not a psychotic breakdown; it's a cleansing moment of clarity'.

Max Schumacher - William Holden - For me he is the key character in the piece, the head of the News Department and also Howard's best friend, he does his best to initially shield Howard from the media glare, but then realises he has his own demons to deal with, he is almost as prophetic as Howard, when he announces correctly how the whole piece will play out, he knows what Howard is doing and knows that the network deserve what will eventually come to them. Mid way through the film he leaves his wife for an affair with his boss (Dunaway) and their scenes together are awkward and incredibly realistic, he is the most sympathetic character in the piece and his break up with his wife is harrowing and touching, struggling with a mid-life crisis he is swept away by his dreams but underlies this with his realistic knowledge of how it will all play out. Schumacher is the voice of reason in the film and I found Holden's portrayal exceptional, he loves the medium of journalism but is broken by television and what it has done to him and those around him, with those he loves most being consumed by it.

Diana Christiansen - Faye Dunaway - This is one of her best roles, a rating obsessed executive she talks ratings always, the scene where she and Holden first get together should be touching but throughout their first day together we see he is tender and loving whilst she is involved but talking about rating shares throughout. Max Schumacher sums her up when he tells her 'With you, all of life is reduced to the common rubble of banality. War, murder, death are all the same to you as bottles of beer'.

Dunaway is superb in an oscar winning performance and she is driven, and yet has a charm, she admits she is awful at everything but television and she knows nothing else, she is commanding and dominates the screen with her soft face and hard attitudes, the ending instigated by her character is memorable and not altogether unrealistic in this day and age.

Frank Hackett - Robert Duvall - In a career best performance, Duvall is brilliant, paranoid, hard nosed and driven purely by pleasing his boss, he has less scenes than the others but he fills the screen with nastiness and at no point in the film shows a redeeming feature, he is awful and a realistic creation of a man driven by work and nothing else.

My View:

This is my first Sidney Lumet film and it is exceptional, the story is hugely intelligent, it doesn't spoonfeed you anything it allows you to draw your own conclusions from the madness laid before you.

Screenwriter Paddy Chayefsky's script is exceptional, cutting, satirial, emotive and finally numbing, it is a sad and entirely accurate indictment of television and its desire to shock to create the ratings, the ending is outstanding, the film is slow paced but draws you in with great dialogue and wonderful performances, you can almost at times simply listen without watching to keep up, but the demeanour of each character is aided by wonderful acting.

Lumet's direction is assured, the characters are given screen time to develop and we come to like or loathe them accordingly, the film delves beyond television into the seedy infrastructure of big business and Ned Beatty is excellent as the head of the television companies owners.

Overall this is a film i'd recommend to anyone who is slightly cynical about the way television is going, its interesting that the slump must have started in the seventies for this film to have had any relevance then, but with Big Brother, Jerry Springer and the coverage of ridiculous celebrity based issues over deaths and wars on the news, it has a striking relevance today.

Stand out scenes include Beale's rants, Schumacher leaving his life and Dunaway's ideas for television shows, including the idea of creating a reality television show following a group of terrorists as they blow people up, this couldn't happen today.......could it??

The DVD is available for £3.98 on Amazon and is well worth buying it is a really intelligent satire on television, politics and human nature.

This review has also been posted by me on Dooyoo under the same username

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Comments on this review

  • Deesrev published 16/06/2011
    Superb review with excellent run through of characters. Will be back to rate with an E asap xXx
  • Soho_Black published 30/01/2011
    You've posted this as a DVD review, but not mentioned the DVD features. Are there any extras, what are they and are they any good? You can change it to be posted as a "Film Only" review by accessing "edit review" above the review and changing the drop down menu under the "Which format are you reviewing?" question.
  • Hishyeness published 24/05/2009
    Fab review. Loved reading it. 8^)
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Product Information : Network (DVD)

Manufacturer's product description

With stunning prescience, Sidney Lumet's searing satire of television and the contemporary moment chronicles the media's imminent corruption and the public's wholesale purchase into the myths that it creates. With a verbose and visceral script from Paddy Chayefsky, NETWORK follows the doomed path of aging newsman Howard Beale (Peter Finch), who upon learning that he is to be fired after decades as a news anchor announces to millions of viewers that he will publicly commit suicide during his last broadcast. When the ratings consequently shoot up, razor-sharp executive in training Diana Christensen (Faye Dunaway) seizes the moment to exploit Beale's messianic nervous breakdown, turning his delusional exclamatory rage into the vehicle for the network's first number one show and a nationwide craze. Middle-aged and fading news department head Max Schumacher (William Holden) is the only thing that stands in Diana's way--and even then not for long after she casually seduces him and easily has him fired with the help of the savage new head of the network, Frank Hackett (Robert Duvall). The moral and spiritual turpitude delivered by the debilitating forces of television are rendered in sharp relief against a backdrop of crumbling humanity in what is regarded as one of the great satires in Hollywood history.

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