45th anniversary of the film about intellectual prostitution

On November 14, 1976, the premiere of Sidney Lumet's movie "Network" took place in New York.

Until today, critics have not agreed on the genre of this film. Many believed, and with good reason, that Sidney Lumet and the screenwriter Paddy Chayefsky created the film based on a real incident that took place on local television in the town of Sarasota, Florida, 2 years before the release of the movie "Network" on the screens. Then TV journalist Christine Chubbuck put a gun to her ear on the air and smashed her skull in front of the viewers. However, the authors of the picture categorically denied the connection of the plot of the "Network" with this suicide, claiming that they had no idea about this incident before starting work on the script.

Other American film critics, and most of them, characterize the film as satire, differing only in the epithets attached to this definition: "outrageous satire" (Leonard Maltin), "Messianic farce" (Pauline Kael), etc. And one of the most authoritative critics, James Berardinelli, began his review of this film with this paragraph: "In motion pictures, there are essentially three types of satire: a fatuous, silly kind that emphasizes jokes to the exclusion of all else; a lightly comic approach that gently pokes fun at issues while developing a plot and characters; and a vicious, unrelenting attack that uses gallows humor to obtain laughs. The television news industry has been well represented on screen in each of the latter two categories. ... Network, director Sidney Lumet's contribution, goes much farther. It's a dark, dark comedy that ruthlessly skewers the news industry on a stake, then roasts it alive."

However, Russian film critic Mikhail Brashinsky expresses the opposite opinion about Lumet's film: "This movie is quite toothless. Anyway, looking from here, 25 years later. Dystopia is generally a perishable product, and when everything has come true tenfold, Lumet's timid insights about the corrupt power of the media seem quite obvious. Television is brainwashing. Business cannot get along with morality. The Volga flows into the Caspian Sea. But there is another plot. When Bill blurted out something superfluous from the screen, they decided to remove him and do it according to the laws of show business. Exactly two months after the premiere, the performer of the role of Bill, sixty-year-old Peter Finch, died suddenly during the advertising campaign of the film. After all, they didn't know what they were messing with."

Another Russian film critic, Yevgeny Nefedov, states in his review that "the screenwriter Paddy Chayefsky and the director, who both worked (moreover, passed an excellent school) on television during the so–called golden era, unanimously assured that their work was not satire, but a dispassionate reflection of life itself." And develops this thesis of the filmmakers: "As events unfold, the sarcastic intonation acquires tragic overtones... It's not just that the best - principled and far-sighted - people on TV earn their living by intellectual prostitution...But the professionals of the old school found the strength not to cross the last line – not to indulge the most undemanding and base tastes of the audience, to maintain the appearance of decency and objectivity and at least declare the primacy of high ideas over the commercial component in the field of mass communications."

The guru of American film criticism Roger Ebert, who devoted two reviews to the film, in 1976 and 2000, both rated the film with maximum 4 stars, included the film in the list of "Great Movies", as if summarized the different, sometimes opposite reviews of the film: "Network" is "a supremely well-acted, intelligent film that tries for too much, that attacks not only television but also most of the other ills of the 1970s. We are asked to laugh at, be moved by, or get angry about such a long list of subjects: Sexism and ageism and revolutionary ripoffs and upper-middle-class anomie and capitalist exploitation and Neilsen ratings and psychics and that perennial standby, the failure to communicate."

To some extent, the answer to the question of what is Sidney Lumet's film, satire, providence, dystopia or something else, was empirically received by the famous figure of American cinema George Clooney. In 2005, for the 30th anniversary of the picture, he conceived to carry out its TV adaptation. To this end, he showed the film to a group of teenagers and young people to determine their reaction to it. To his great surprise, he discovered that none of the young people recognized the film as satire. The young people unanimously came to the conclusion and convinced Clooney himself that everything that was depicted in the film either happened in reality or could have happened.

In all reviews of the film, the brilliant work of the wonderful acting ensemble and, first of all, the performers of the main roles - Peter Finch and Faye Dunaway - is noted as its absolute merit. Both have been awarded a large number of different awards. And if this "golden rain" that fell on Peter Finch, to some extent, can be explained by his sudden death literally 2 months after the completion of filming, then Faye Dunaway's awards are due solely to her talented acting, without any influential moments.

Meanwhile, Faye Dunaway might not get a role in this movie. The fact is that initially Sidney Lumet saw another actress in the role of Diana Christensen - Vanessa Redgrave. But the author of the script Paddy Chayefsky categorically opposed Redgrave. The reason was that Redgrave was an ardent supporter of the Palestine Liberation Organization. And if Jew Lumet absolutely couldn't care less for this, then for the Jew Chayefsky it was absolutely unacceptable. No one argued with the hero of the Second World War, who was awarded the Purple Heart medal for his exploits committed in the battles against the Nazis on the fronts of Europe, and also a two-time Oscar winner.

2 months after the premiere, the film received 5 Golden Globe Award nominations and won 4 of them: Best Director - Motion Picture (Sidney Lumet), Best Screenplay - Motion Picture (Paddy Chayefsky), Best Actor in Motion Picture - Drama (Peter Finch, Posthumously) and Best Actress in a Motion Picture - Drama (Faye Dunaway). A little later, the film received 10 Oscar nominations and again won in 4: in three actors nominations and for Best Screenplay. In the most important nominations - Best Film and Best Director - the American Film Academy gave preference to the film "Rocky" and its director John G. Avildsen.

A year later, the film received 9 nominations for the British BAFTA Award, but won only one of them - for Best Actor (Peter Finch). In the most important nominations - Best Film and Best Director - the British Film Academy gave preference to the film "Annie Hall" and its director Woody Allen. In the same 1978, Sidney Lumet's film was nominated by the Japanese Film Academy as the Best Foreign Film. But Japanese film academics, as well as American ones, preferred the film "Rocky".

At the box office, Sidney Lumet's film "Network" showed very good results: with a budget of $ 3.8 million, the film collected almost $ 24 million. And this is despite its acutely journalistic nature and serious age restrictions. The film was not shown in Soviet cinemas, at least until the beginning of perestroika.

Modern moviegoers appreciated the film "Network" no less than the audience of the 70s of the last century. 69% of IMDB and Kinopoisk users rated the film from 8 to 10. Taking into account this indicator and the above, the rating of Sidney Lumet's film "Network" according to FilmGourmand was 8,559, thanks to which it took 295th Rank in the Golden Thousand.