Back in 1988, I borrowed a cassette tape compilation of house music from the local library. One of the tracks was by The Housedoctors, which I liked, and contained a sample of a man shouting "I'm as mad as hell, and I'm not going to take it anymore!"

Months later, there was a trailer for a late night film called 'Network', which included that line. I was curious about the film that provided the sample, so I set the VCR.

It's very rare for me to be entranced by anything on television - amused, entertained, interested yes, but I think I've been entranced maybe five times. That film held me till the last frame.

Network was released in 1976. Directed by Paddy Cheyevsky, it starred Peter Finch as Howard Beale, William Holden as Max Schumacher and Faye Dunnaway as Diane Abbot. It was Finch's last film, and he recieved a posthumous oscar for it.

I must have seen it more than a dozen times. Before tonight, the last time was almost two years ago, when I was introducing it to Paul B, staying at his place during the Marxism 2003 conference. Before that, it was probably eight years ago introducing it to Stuart on VHS, as a film that had a big impact on my life.

It's a very dense movie. The story of a news anchorman who has a nervous breakdown and starts inveigning against the hipocrisies and injustices of western culture gives me a different message each time. The need for anger, the media exploitation vulurable people, the incohearance of capitalist ideology, the end of history, the way counterculture can be packaged, the way we try to think and love as though our lives were on the small screen. Each time I watch it, a different aspect jumps out at me.

There are bad points of course. There is a racist undercurrent, a cirtain frivility in the humour, and most of the supporting cast are caricatures. I'm not denying any of that, just talking about something that made a big impact on my when I was 16 and alone.

I watched it on DivX again tonight. TV almost never makes me cry, but there are two scenes that usually do it. The famous 'mad as hell' scene where half the denizens of a tower block - and by impication maybe the whole country - lean out of their windows in a thunderstorm and shout "I'm not going to take it anymore!"

It's as though they all lead lives of quiet desperation and repressed anger, and are now, together, starting to break out, to rebel, taking the first steps in freeing themselves.

The other is the final scene, as images of Beale's televised assasination mix and are swallowed by saccharine adverts for air travel and ice cream. Howard Beale's struggle first became assimilated into the same bland soup of Media that he opposed, then it washed over his corpse and buried him.

There was another flawed hollywood film on tonight that also made an impact. It was called Falling Down, and I may talk about that some other time.

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