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"The word 'commercial' is a horrid word and should be abolished from the language of filmmakers' decisioning." --Barry Diller, CEO of Paramount Pictures at the time Reds went into production
By 1981, the epic film was all but gone. And then actor/writer/producer/director Warren Beatty pulled off something almost unimaginable--a massive, sprawling epic that reminded audiences of the glories of such films as Lawrence of Arabia, Dr. Zhivago and Gone With the Wind. His film, Reds, was nominated for 12 Academy Awards. It was the last time in Oscar history that one film pulled in nominations for each acting category. It won for Best Supporting Actress, Best Cinematography and Best Director.
This is the first time that this film classic has seen the light of day as a DVD. And it was worth the wait.
By all accounts, Reds should never have been made.
"It's a three and a half hour movie about a communist who dies," admits Warren Beatty, sheepishly.
Beatty was interested in making a film about the birth of "the left" in America and found an ample and authoritative voice in the story of John Reed, a journalist and leading American communist and his turbulent love affair with writer Louise Bryant.
The story follows several years of their lives, from their inauspicious meeting at a dinner where he delivered a speech in Portland, Oregon, to their impassioned years fighting for the labor movement in New York City, to the battlefields of World War I Europe, and finally the sweeping vistas of revolutionary Russia where Reed desperately tried to help shepherd the fledgling socialist country to greatness only to watch it fall apart and devolve into an authoritarian police state.
Make no mistake about it, Reds is a controversial film depending on your politics. Though, to be fair and accurate, Reds is about characters championing a return to power in the hands of the people, not the monstrosity that communism became under the Soviet Union. You can call the characters naive or easily duped, but you cannot call them champions of totalitarianism.
For some Reds will inspire. Others it will enrage. After all, it's a Warren Beatty film and Reds says as much about the convergence and uneasy relationship of art and politics in general as it does about art and politics in the life of its creator. Beatty has always been one of Hollywood's more outspoken liberals and this sentiment is what drove him to craft this film as a response to America's 70s paranoia and involvement in Vietnam.
But whatever its reception, Reds it is also a luminescent film, with actors, both large and small, at the top of their game. Beatty is both fiercely rabid and utterly charming as Reed. Diane Keaton, as Bryant, is a powerhouse of emotion as a woman not as in love with her husband's passions as she is passionate about her husband. Jack Nicholson, as the writer Eugene O'Neil, is all gloom and melancholy as a man caught in a love triangle between Bryant and the bottle.
One year, over two million feet of film, and nearly two dozen shooting locations all across the world went into making Reds. It was a labor of love that became one of the most acclaimed and adored films in recent memory.
To read the full review, click here.