Long Live the Monologue

I’m a novelist and a short story writer. I also do essays and newspaper columns. In other words, I’m into words. Phrases, text, dialogue: the art of expression via talking. Films with a well-placed monologue knock me out. I’ve written about this before, mostly referring to Spike Lee’s use of the form.

Recently I realized Sidney Lumet is another director who doesn’t shy away from a texty script. Films of his such as TWELVE ANGRY MEN and DOG DAY AFTERNOON are rife with soliloquy. Seems like Lumet made films that were like stage plays: big ideas, thoughtful expression, long-winded emotions.

I realized all this after watching NETWORK. It’s a masterpiece of monologues delivered by Peter Finch, William Holden, Faye Dunaway, and others. One of my favorite scenes is Ned Beatty’s ridiculous and over-long speech about the death of nationalism at the hands of corporatism. He delivers the first half without moving around in the frame. It was a captivating performance heightened by the lighting, odd camera angle, and set design. He really looks like the All-Powerful speaking to us from the On-High. Even later when he moved about, the various elements came together and thrust the scene straight out of the ball park.

Who says a film has to have fast cuts, snappy patter, and flying bullets to keep our attention. Folks, I give you the monologue: