BLU-RAY REVIEW: NETWORK (1976) / CERT: 15 / DIRECTOR: SIDNEY LUMET / SCREENPLAY: PADDY CHAYEFSKY / STARRING: FAYE DUNAWAY, PETER FINCH, WILLIAM HOLDEN, ROBERT DUVALL / RELEASE DATE: OUT NOW
The pleasure for the newbie, and perhaps the greatest reason to recommend Network, is looking at it and seeing how very relevant it still is. Though the film is and always will be very much a period piece (being made in the mid-70s, naturally everybody in it looks like they belong in The Professionals; frankly that's a look we're glad fashion left behind), the recent release of the film on Blu-ray serves as a timely reminder just how close the news media constantly is to giving into its worst excesses (such as fetishisation of graphic violence and overwhelming focus on celebrity ‘scandals’). In an age where the tabloidisation of the news is a real and growing concern, it's nice to look back and see someone crying out, "I'm as mad as hell and I'm not going to take it anymore" without worrying about what Ofcom will think.
Though Sidney Lumet's direction is excellent and gets the very best performances out of his stars, underneath it all there is an utterly superb script, filled to the brim with memorable lines (“I simply ran out of bullshit.”) and clever scene construction (in particular, the scene where the activists and network officials are divvying up rights to the ‘Mao Tse-tung Hour’ is sublime). The screenplay was so good, in fact, that it won Paddy Chayevsky an Oscar. It did seem a bit odd that they would let Finch’s character stay on the air after the stuff he said, mind.
If you’ve never seen Network (and this writer counted himself in that category until last week), now is definitely the time and this is definitely the version to pick up. Arrow Films have given it the HD treatment and all the garish colours are there in their full glory. Of course, we’ve taken off two points because the film heavily features the ‘70s. Other than that, it’s a near-perfect film; enjoyable on its own terms and relevant now more than ever.
Extras: The Directors: Sidney Lumet – documentary (made in 1999) with interviews with numerous stars / Tune in Next Tuesday – visual essay from Dave Itzkoff / collector’s booklet.