Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Movie: "Reds"

Director: Warren Beatty 1981
Imagine you’re a movie star. Let’s say George Clooney. You also write and direct films, and you have a liberal bent. So you head over to a major studio, meet the top people there. And you pitch your pet project: a movie set in the first quarter of the 20th Century and all about the rise of the left, of labor movements, of Communism. Your heroes are journalists John Reed and Louise Bryant. Supporting characters include Max Eastman, Emma Goldman and Eugene O’Neill—and lots of apparatchiks in Russia. There are sweeping scenes of revolution. There’s also a love story. And an intermission. And interviews with old people who knew the principals. And the budget is huge.
Not even Clooney could get this movie made today.
But 25 years ago, Warren Beatty did, and Paramount put up the dough. “Reds” is a fascinating—if not quite great—movie that’s well worth watching, as long as you have a spare three and half hours.
It’s a beautifully shot film (by Vittorio Storaro, who won an Oscar) with flawless period reconstruction and lots of good scenes. There are also an endless number of bickering moments between Reed (Beatty) and Bryant (Diane Keaton), so many that the first hour or so almost slips into soap opera—albeit a soap opera in which the characters discuss the Armory Show and Bolsheviks. The movie takes off when Reed and Bryant travel to Russia and witness the Revolution (Reed wrote “Ten Days That Shook the World”).
Beatty deservedly won Best Director, but the movie lost to “Chariots of Fire” that year. I would have voted for “Reds.”


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