Reds

"Essential"

Reds Review


Audacious and ambitious even by today's standards, Warren Beatty's Reds still retains a certain humble nature to its sprawling, ambidextrous narrative. Just shy of 200 minutes and one of the last films by an American director to feature an intermission, Beatty's sickle-and-hammer romance seems even more sweeping when one consider what passes for "epic" these days (All the King's Men?).

A lecture in 1912 brought together Jack Reed (Warren Beatty) and Louise Bryant (Diane Keaton) and that was beginning of a beau... well, actually, the relationship was more turbulent than beautiful. Though Bryant was married and Reed was a full-time politico, their relationship grew through ebb-and-flow from the days after their meeting till the Red Scare of the late 1910s and early 1920s. The relationship even survives Louise's romance with famed playwright Eugene O'Neill (Jack Nicholson) and Reed's rigorous commitment to the Communist revolution in Russia and in America.

As a director, Beatty has always been a tough cookie. His style, nothing if not rampantly malleable, goes from the colorful blasts of cartoon freakishness of Dick Tracy to the hyper-satirical bombast of Bulworth (we can leave Heaven Can Wait out of this). But Reds has a decidedly more recognizable tone in its country-hopping visual diatribes. The dust-blown tones of America and the small scenes in Germany give way to the darker, shadowy atmospheres of Russia and its subsequent uprisings with a seamless sense of pacing. These images are given expansive depth under the eye of cinematographer Vittorio Storaro, the brilliant eye behind Apocalypse Now and The Conformist.

Much more than a labor-party Gone with the Wind, Beatty's film also cuts to the problem of Communism, in America or anywhere else. Where it could have easily gone to the left and only looked at the positives of the Communist party, Beatty's script, which he wrote with playwright Trevor Griffiths, shows the perils of the collective mindset vs. independent ideology, which comes to a head in the film's most cathartic scene on a train trip back from a pro-Communist rally. Also, this conflict gives deeper shades to the relationship between Reed and Bryant when they are left alone, away from each other.

Bryant and Reed would also be left to the cliché chopping block if it wasn't for deeply understood, nuanced performances by Keaton and Beatty. Keaton, who had just wrapped a trio of Woody Allen films, breaks away from the quirkiness of Annie Hall and slowly shows the gentle maturing of Louise from a self-congratulatory writer to an independent woman with deep love for her cause and her husband. Then there's Beatty, a full, rollicking storm of political ambition and passionate ardor who can't even slow down to accept that Louise has feelings that go on beyond her love for him. However, the real surprise is Nicholson, cutting into a calm, subtle character with restraint and a grand sense of self-loathing. Those who thought Nicholson only settled down in About Schmidt will be in for a rude awakening when he professes his love for Bryant and forces her to find a glass for his whiskey; a cup just won't do. Truth be told, a film as emotionally complex and thick with ideas as Reds could have gone for another 30 minutes, easy, but Beatty knows how to cut the fat off the issues and get down to the nitty-gritty. It's tragic that more American filmmakers aren't taking risks like this at a time like this.

The new DVD (which spans two discs) adds an extensive set of documentaries about the film and the Communist movement.



Reds

Facts and Figures

Run time: 195 mins

In Theaters: Friday 25th December 1981

Box Office Worldwide: $40.4M

Budget: $35M

Distributed by: Paramount Home Video

Production compaines: Barclays Mercantile Industrial Finance

Reviews

Contactmusic.com: 5 / 5

Rotten Tomatoes: 94%
Fresh: 32 Rotten: 2

IMDB: 7.5 / 10

Cast & Crew

Director:

Producer:

Starring: as John Reed, as Louise Bryant, as Max Eastman, as Eugene O'Neill, as Grigory Zinoviev, as Louis Fraina, as Emma Goldman, as Paul Trullinger, as Speaker - Liberal Club, Ian Wolfe as Mr. Partlow, as Mrs. Partlow, MacIntyre Dixon as Carl Walters, Pat Starr as Helen Walters, Eleanor D. Wilson as Mrs. Reed, Max Wright as Floyd Dell, as Horace Whigham, Harry Ditson as Maurice Becker, Leigh Curran as Ida Rauh, as Crystal Eastman, Brenda Currin as Marjorie Jones, Nancy Duiguid as Jane Heap, as Barney, Dolph Sweet as Big Bill Haywood, Ramon Bieri as Police Chief, Jack O'Leary as Pinkerton Guard, as Pete Van Wherry, Gerald Hiken as Dr. Lorber, as Julius Gerber, Joseph Buloff as Joe Volski, as Woman writing in Notebook, as Allan Benson

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