Saturday April 16, 2011 11:16

Movie #0045 – Network (1976)

Posted by Michael

Directed by: Sidney Lumet
Starring: Peter Finch, Faye Dunaway, William Holden
Picture credit: DVD Beaver
First Viewing

Synopsis: In this satire of the TV news industry, an aging anchorman on his way out has a very public breakdown, only to find himself more popular than ever.

Sidney Lumet passed away last week. Tragic, certainly, though it’s hard to deny that the man lead a full life — he was 86 when he died, and directed scads of classic films, including (among many others) 12 Angry Men, Serpico, Dog Day Afternoon, and of course, this movie.

This is a film that came out more than thirty years ago, and yet has hardly aged at all: desperate TV execs ready to do anything for a top-rated TV show, the decline of network news, the rise of exploitative reality TV — aside from some of the outdated technology (and a scene in which Robert Duvall wears a tux with a shirt that looks an awful lot like the puffy shirt from Seinfeld), this is a movie that could have come out yesterday.

There are also some eerily close parallels to the current Charlie Sheen fiasco. It’s very hard to see the Peter Finch character — who has a public breakdown and starts spouting off his own off-kilter world view in a very public forum — and not think of Sheen. When Finch (in a really amazing performance) says stuff like “I’m imbued with some special spirit. It’s not a religious feeling. It’s a shocking eruption of great electrical energy,” it’s very hard not to think of Charlie Sheen. All Finch is missing are references to tiger blood and winning.

This is also a surprisingly funny film. I didn’t realize going in, but there are some pretty memorable moments of dark comedy in this movie. I’m thinking, for example, of a great scene in which a group of revolutionary Marxists attempt to renegotiate their contracts with a bevy of lawyers and TV execs.

There’s definitely a lot to like here, including Lumet’s solid direction, the great performances, and a memorable scene with Ned Beatty that’s downright electrifying. Even if the rest of the movie were terrible, I still think it would probably be worth recommending if only for that one scene alone.

Buy the movie on Amazon

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