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All the President's Men, Network

All the President's Men, Network

There’s a moment early in director Alan J. Pakula’s All the President’s Men (1976) when Washington Post Metro editor Harry Rosenfeld (Jack Warden) argues that young reporters Bob Woodward (Robert Redford) and Carl Bernstein (Dustin Hoffman) be put on the Watergate story. “They’re hungry,” Rosenfeld tells Post managing editor Howard Simons (Martin Balsam). But hungry for what? Fame? Power? Truth? The answer seems less implicit now than it may have 30 years ago when the film was released, so soon after Woodward and Bernstein’s dogged reporting brought down Nixon. The current sad state of mainstream American journalism, with even Woodward himself playing stenographer to power, has blasted a hole of ambiguity into Pakula’s intricate geometry of Beltway corruption and crusading. By casting Redford and Hoffman in his apotheosis of investigative journalism, Pakula may have inadvertently presaged the conditions for the profession’s decline, as a whole generation of would-be journos set out in search of celebrity instead of truth. If the cultural status of All the President’s Men has grown more ambiguous over the years, the prophetic vision of director Sidney Lumet and screenwriter Paddy Chayefsky in Network (1976) has grown ever more diamond sharp. Of course, Chayefsky may have ensured the unfolding of his media nightmare by putting the film’s most damning truths in the mouth of a madman. Since the film’s release, Howard Beale has gone from singular allegorical warning sign to the reigning personality of a thousand-channel universe. This week and next, Warner Home Video releases All the President’s Men and Network as two-disc special editions.

—Paul Malcolm

Other recommended new releases: Edvard Munch (DVD), Midnight Cowboy: Collector’s Edition (DVD).

Also released this week:

VHS-DVD: Rent, The Weather Man.

DVD: Action: The Complete Series — Uncut and Unbleeped!, Cavalcade of Comedy, Daddy Longlegs, The Gospel Live, Howard Zinn — Voices of a People’s History of the USA, Johnny Guitar Watson — Music Hall in Concert, The Memory of a Killer, Noam Chomsky — Imperial Grand Strategy, NYPD Blue: Season 3, Pin-Up Girl, Robert Benchley, Separate Lies, Syd Barrett — Under Review, Third World — Music Hall in Concert, Turbo History 1980–2005, Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea, Waterborne, Weekend in Havana.