A film by Sydney Lumet
Written by Paddy Chayefsky
Year ; 1976
Runtime : 121 min
English with English sub titles
Thirty three years ago, this movie would have seemed like a fantasy; now it's barely ahead of the facts.
"Network" will shake you up. Paddy Chayefsky's absurdly plausible and outrageously provocative original script concerns media running amok. Faye Dunaway and William Holden, each in two of their finest performances, plus Peter Finch and Robert Duvall star in this superbly cast and handsomely produced Howard Gottfried production. Sidney Lumet's direction is outstanding. The Metro picture, released by United Artists, is a potent commercial blend of artful tirade, visual excitement and sociological horror.
The movie caused a sensation in 1976.and stirred up much debate about the decaying values of television. Seen a quarter-century later, it is like prophecy. When Chayefsky created Howard Beale, could he have imagined Jerry Springer, Howard Stern and the World Wrestling Federation ?
The movie has been described as "outrageous satire" (Leonard Maltin) and "messianic farce" (Pauline Kael), and it is both, and more. What is fascinating about Paddy Chayefsky's Oscar-winning screenplay is how smoothly it shifts its gears. The scenes involving Beale and the revolutionary "liberation army" are cheerfully over the top. The scenes involving Diana and Max are quiet, tense, convincing drama. The action at the network executive level aims for behind-the-scenes realism; we may doubt that a Howard Beale could get on the air, but we have no doubt the idea would be discussed as the movie suggests. And then Chayefsky and the director, Sidney Lumet, edge the backstage network material over into satire, too--but subtly, so that in the final late-night meeting where the executives decide what to do about Howard Beale, we have entered the madhouse without noticing.
But then there are scenes in the movie that are absolutely chilling. We watch Peter Finch cracking up on the air, and we remind ourselves that this isn't satire, it was a style as long ago as Jack Paar. We can believe that audiences would tune in to a news program that's half happy talk and half freak show, because audiences are tuning in to programs like that. We can believe in the movie's "Ecumenical Liberation Army" because nothing along those lines will amaze us after Patty Hearst. And we can believe that the Faye Dunaway character could be totally cut off from her emotional and sexual roots, could be fanatically obsessed with her job, because jobs as competitive as hers almost require that. Thirty three years ago, this movie would have seemed like a fantasy; now it's barely ahead of the facts.
Sidney Lumet is nevertheless a master of cinema. Known for his technical knowledge and his skill at getting first-rate performances from his actors--and for shooting most of his films in his beloved New York--Lumet has made over 40 movies, often emotional, but seldom overly sentimental. He often tells intelligent, complex stories. His politics are somewhat left-leaning and he often treats socially relevant themes in his films.
As social criticism, Sidney Lumet addresses throughout his long career on numerous issues related to American society - on corrupt police (Serpico, 1973, The Prince of New York, 1981 and in the Night Falls on Manhattan (1997)), on television (A Dog Day Afternoon, 1975 ), on Justice ( Twelve Angry Men In 1957, The Verdict, 1982 ) on MacCarthyism (Daniel, 1983), on alcoholism (Lendemain From Crime, 1986) and on racism (Counter-survey, 1990).
Born on June 25, 1924, in Philadelphia, the son of actor Baruch Lumet and dancer Eugenia Wermus Lumet, he made his stage debut at age four at the Yiddish Art Theater in New York. He played many roles on Broadway in the 1930s (such as "Dead End"), and his acting debut in films came in One Third of a Nation (1939). In 1947 he started an off-Broadway acting troupe that included such future stars as Yul Brynner and Eli Wallach, and other former members of Lee Strasberg's Actors Studio who had become unsatisfied with Strasberg's concepts.
Lumet made his stage directing debut in 1955. He made his feature film directing debut with the critical and financial hit 12 Angry Men (1957), which won the Golden Bear at the Berlin Film Festival and earned Academy Award nominations for Best Picture, Director and Adapted Screenplay, and is justly regarded as one of the most auspicious directorial debuts in film history.
Lumet has made over 40 movies, which earned nearly 50 Oscar nominations. In 1993 he received the D.W. Griffith Award of theDirectors Guild of America and in 2005 a well-deserved Honorary Academy Award.