Thursday, June 28, 2007

Network (Movie Review)

"I'm mad as hell. And I'm not going to take it any more!" ~Anchorman Howard Beale, Network

Social satire. Black comedy. And overrated.

They're all words used to describe Sidney Lumet's Network (1976) — a film that makes just about every top 100 list.

And I agree with the vox populi in this regard — it is a great film in that it eerily forecasts the direction of modern media: to a point that's actually spooky when you consider the pervasiveness of Jerry Springer, reality TV and the like. And it does this so subtly that a modern audience being exposed to Network for the first time is somewhat inclined to forget that shock jock broadcasts weren't always the norm. They might even fail to realize — egad! — that this 32-year-old film was intended to be (and still is, really) satire.

In Network, Peter Finch plays a washed up news anchor who just lost his wife. And then, because of a ratings drop, he also loses his job. This leads to a nervous breakdown on the air, which in turn leads to increased ratings.

So what, pray tell, is a Network to do?

They keep him aboard, exploiting his mental illness as a veritable reality TV show, all the while underscoring the (still current) trend for news stations as more and more networks (once independently owned) were purchased by corporations. The news, then, became a matter of profit — which thereby compromises the very credibility of America's intended watch dog.

The film also underscores post-Industrial rage, as precipitated by a fast-paced, traffic jam way of life. Regardless of whether or not it was on the rise then (don't ask me — I wasn't born yet), I have long had the nagging suspicion that that sort of desperate anger — that misery — is, sadly, inextricable from human existence.

And for all of these reasons, I loved the film. But it also seemed a bit unnecessarily long — or perhaps I was just unnecessarily tired (and so: impatient) when I watched it.



Stacy said...

My friend's mom took us to see it when it came out because she wanted to see it and she had kid duty that weekend (one of the early divorcees). Yikes you weren't born yet. The movie went right over my head and I remember thinking it was very boring.

Matthew said...

I agree with your point, except that the film is still satire.

The news is now satire. The film has become something closer to a phophecy.