Network

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NTGDS_LAR_Network_600x600px_140617_v1How well I remember the movie “Network” with William Holden and Faye Dunaway. Their sexy star qualities could have dominated the plot if it hadn’t been for the incredible Peter Finch’s take on mental deterioration and messianic fervor. During an on screen breakdown, Howard Beal, the newsreader, promises to kill himself on live TV. This becomes an opportunity for an ambitious young female producer to raise the plummeting ratings of the news programming. She intends to use Beal’s madness as a way to foster her career and grab programming control. The Dunaway character wants it all. Power and sexual satisfaction. The business directors see a chance for increased revenues. It is a win/win, at first, and then not.

Paddy Chayefsky won many awards for the 1975 screenplay, and looking backwards the movie was not just an indictment of the enormous power of television to substitute its values for REAL life, but was a harbinger of what was to come. Remove a few topical references And you could have today’s jangling fragmented world of iPhones, iPads and robotics.

The National’s version of “Network” directed by Ivo Van Hove, starring Bryan Cranston of “BREAKING BAD” fame, is a tour de force. The complex set with its various levels, on stage diners eating real food, technicians filming and a 24/7 enormous news screen, is compelling, confusing and challenging. We are immediately engaged with the noise and the confusion of the various storylines. Business men pursue their financial and political goals. Lovers connect. News happens in real time and over and over again on air time.

The question is posited: Is the news just another source of entertainment (seems to have been proven so), and is its real mission selling products from cars to brassieres to a semiconscious manipulated audience? Recently a commentator pointed out that Google and Facebook were really publishing companies
and should be subject to the full weight of the laws on libel and truth in advertising.

There was a political message underlying, but I wasn’t exactly sure of whether any of us can do a thing about it in face of the constantly mutating power of technology.

Four stars, and hope you can get a ticket if you are in London. It was a sell out!

Kaaren Hale

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