Star Spangled Snuff
Yet another great release this week by the good folk at Arrow Films/Videos, and a quite topical (more warnings about corporations) companion to Rollerball reviewed here earlier in the week. Without any hesitation, the directorship of Sidney Lumet (12 Angry Men, one of the greatest movies ever) guiding Paddy Chayefsky’s visceral comedic words across the screen deserves Network (1976) a straight 10/10. It is just fantastic.
Thankfully most folk have a moral line that they won’t cross when decisions are presented before them, most folk. None of them seem to be working in media though, tv in particular. When the luxuries of your life are dependant upon ratings figures, it won’t take long before your tolerance deepens and your morales evaporate to be swapped for sensation chasing, the weirder the moment, the higher the buzz.
So when a depressed successful veteran news anchor Howard Beale (Peter Finch, who was rightly Oscar nominated for his performance) of the UBS Television Network has a breakdown mid broadcast threatening to commit suicide, rather than seeking help for their work colleague, they ultimately discover that such live human tragedy is an absolute ratings magnet.
Though Howard’s boss Max Schumacher (William Holden again in brilliant form) genuinely has concerns for his friend and employee, it’s meek in comparison to the rabid authority of higher management in Frank Hackett (Robert Duvall, again stunning) and the fanatically career driven Diana Christensen (Faye Dunaway, mesmeric) ultimately guiding everything like ratings junkies waiting for their next fix at ANY cost. Max doesn’t help himself when he becomes besotted by the radiant merciless Diane, his muse of moral depravity.
The story unfolds in an ever increasingly outlandish, yet completely natural evolution (degeneration) as the players concoct ever increasingly bizarre solutions to maintaining dominance, and the pieces of gold. And that is the frightening brilliance of the movie. Even though this is supposed to be a farce, they are foretelling contemporary networks such as Fox News and their ilk.
There’s just so much depth in the characters with enhancing show stopping script work throughout, in particular a speech by Ned Beatty (playing company boss Arthur Jensen) which is worth the purchase of the movie alone, yet it’s just one of many moments that I’ll not dilute the first time viewing experience by writing them down here. It just has to be seen, it being an unadulterated treat for your intelligence.
If there are any issues with the bluray it’s that the transfer is slightly soft, which is unfortunate considering the sharpness of the everything else in the movie. However there are a couple of excellent extras on the disc. One being an episode of The Directors: Sidney Lumet about his career and which effectively will make you just retire away until you’ve watched every movie he has made, and secondly Tune in Next Tuesday a visual essay on how Network became a movie in the first place. They are both wonderfully interesting works in themselves.
And if it all wasn’t clear enough already, there are very few movies as effective as Network, it’s an true must have classic that will be enjoyed no matter how many times it’s watched. A true ratings winner in itself.
Network is out on bluray now.