Okay, tonight's TCM scoop was 1976's Network, starring William Holden, Peter Finch, Faye Dunaway, and Robert Duvall.
What a great movie. Oh, I could go through the predictable rigmarole about how what was far-out satire in the 1970s was actually a prescient foreshadowing of the three ring circus that is our modern News Infotainment industry, but it was more than that. It was a remarkably mature examination of the weird soul melding that has transpired between the individual and the zeitgeist, as transmitted by television. Watching this movie made me ache for a return to the times when not every film had to be produced to be a date movie or a stylistic masturbatory fantasy of a fifth generation film geek. The storytelling was on par with a fine novel; the characters well defined and archetypal rather than stereotypical; the language intelligent and flirting with true profundity. (The characters actually used some of them there big words now and then to express their ideas!) It was a tale about the very bright people behind the dumbing down of our collective character.
Fincher's "I'm mad as hell and I am not going to take it anymore!" routine as the raving madman-cum-media star Howard Beale is of course an Academy Award winning legendary performance, and I don't need to throw any additional garlands on it. I will say Dunaway's character, a beautiful but soulless TV exec , was not just wonderfully executed but brilliantly written. As Holden's world weary ex-news executive pointed out, Dunaway's character was television: a seductive , dynamic, irresistible love who turns out to be all surface; a soulless unfeeling ratings machine, and ultimately a lousy lay to boot. Few women in movies have really done it for me quite like Dunaway in her prime. She is absolutely riveting.
Duvall is very believable as the Corporate slime ball, but for my money, Ned Beatty in a very small role as the biggest of the Corporate Big-wigs steals the show. He lays out the way the world really is to a dumbstruck Beale, breaking it all down to not a world of nations and laws, but a world of global titans above all world affairs , whose very life-blood is the ebb and flow of world currency. "I have seen the face of God," Beale murmurs in the wake of Beatty's holy tirade.
I guess the closest we have these days to this high level of film making is the occasional Coen brothers movie, when they are not trying to be too cute. If I think about this too much I have a Beale moment myself, "I am mad as hell, and I am not going to watch Seth Rogan anymore!"