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Network – Blu-Ray Review

Network – Blu-Ray Review

network-blu-ray-coverSTOP! I want you to stop what you are doing and get out of your chair. I want all of you to get up out of your chairs and go over to the window. Then I want you to open it, stick your head out and yell, “NETWORK IS FINALLY BEING RELEASED ON BLU-RAY, AND IT’S AS RICH AND RELEVENT AS EVER”!

It speaks volumes as to the lasting power of director Sidney Lumet’s classic satire (arguably his greatest work) that its themes continue to resonate so strongly within our society today. Network was a film both of, and ahead of its time. Paddy Chayefsky’s superb script, which details the inner workings of an imaginary US television network named UBS as it struggles to increase its ever-reducing ratings, may be a work of fiction, but there’s very little that feels fabricated here.

Similarly to Howard Beale (Peter Finch), the long-time newscaster at the heart of Network who transforms from a fading star to a ferocious on-air prophet, Lumet is an orator using his platform to tell us some hard-hitting home truths. Within UBS’ concrete fortress, glimpsed at through imposing low-angle shots, is a sprawling nest of vipers that spew vicious rhetoric like poison as they slink through the hallways on a hunt for the next big thing.
network-still-02The interiors are steeped in prestige and grandeur, yet the inhabitants are all repellent and ugly human beings willing to go to the most extreme lengths to further their careers. Peter Finch, perfectly cast as the aging anchor mentally unravelling before our very eyes, may be lead actor, but the power of Network is drawn very much from the entire ensemble. Robert Duvall shines as network chief Frank Hackett, who slithers through with piercing eyes and a venomous nature akin to that of a Cobra. But it’s Faye Dunaway who gets to sink her teeth in the furthest as Diana, the ball-breaking battle-axe in charge of programming whose fight to be truly heard within this male dominated industry is the only thing more understatedly tragic than her inability to intimately connect with anyone who tries.

Nearly 40 years on, it’s terrifying to realise just how timely Network remains. It’s a film that addresses a generation brought up in front of the TV, where religious deities have been replaced by outspoken televisual personalities. The likes of Bill O’Reilly and Katie Hopkins, who use their celebrity status as a stage from which to shout nefarious nonsense, are similar to Beale in that they are exploited by networks as a way to boost viewing figures. Fiscal focus, not audience appreciation, is what drives this serpentine sector of the Media industry. The rise in terrorism may be tragic news for society, but its tremendous for the shareholders looking to increase their revenue.
network-still-01The themes and ideologies explored by Lumet and Chayefsky in Network have gone on to inspire many other works. Dan Gilroy’s Nightcrawler is perhaps one of the most prominent recent examples, which cited the news industry as one that thrives on the suffering of others. But while that film persistently felt too preachy in nature, this one continues to feel like it was pitched almost perfectly. The satire is sharp, and at times amusingly absurd. The prospect of a news crew sitting down to a production meeting with a violent militia leader may appear to be ridiculous, but what it represents is carved from reality.

Some elements fail to ring true, notably the ending that’s too preposterous to be practical. And it must be said that the second half fails to feel as fresh as the first. But from the start, Network strikes you as a figurehead of filmic importance. Now released for the first time on Blu-Ray and featuring an exciting array of special features, you’d have to be mad as hell not to seek it out.

★★★★★

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