RogerBW's Blog

Network 12 August 2021

1976 drama, dir. Sidney Lumet, Peter Finch, William Holden; IMDb / allmovie. What TV really needs is a lunatic.

There's a message here. Well, there are several messages, and perhaps that's the problem. Paddy Chayevsky, who'd done a lot of TV work in the 1940s and 1950s, is telling you that those people are stupid, but you, dear viewer who has the good taste to watch film instead of mere television, are better than them… And corporations are bad, and terrorists can casually be seduced by the almighty dollar, and women only work because they can't fall in love, and

I mean, there's good stuff here, but look at the bones of the plot. Old man goes mad, rants and raves, is popular, has his madness redirected, is less popular. (And the ranting isn't for anything… it's just "I'm not happy". Well, boo hoo, what are you going to do about it?) Another old man gets to screw a young attractive woman, but this time he leaves her 'cos she's just so shallow. (One feels that the story she wrote might be quite different. And weirdly I think this is the best job of acting I've seen from Dunaway, for all her character's thoroughly unsympathetic – particularly in the scene where the killing is being set up.)

Make this script with a normal director and actors, and it would be forgettable. Make it with Lumet directing and Owen Roizman behind the cameras, and with Finch, Holden, Faye Dunaway, Robert Duvall and Ned Beatty in front of them, and you get something pretty special… you just have to accept that everything is going to come to a halt for yet another speech to the audience, and try to enjoy it on its own terms.

Once more if you want more of my witterings you should listen to Ribbon of Memes.

Tags: film reviews

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