Monday, 26 May 2014

Reds (1981)

Reds is a bold and stunning epic that tells the story of John Reed, idealist and author of Ten Days That Shook The World, and the only American to be buried within the Kremlin. 

It's easy to say that this is Warren Beatty's film - after all he raised the necessary funds to make it, co-wrote it alongside the Mancunian playwright Trevor Griffiths (author of the excellent 1970s TV series Bill Brand, about an idealistic young Labour MP), produced, directed and starred in it - but that would be making a glaring omission, because Beatty fills the film not only with great supporting actors and cameo performances, but also with 'the witnesses', the many real contemporaries of Reed and his wife Louise Bryant who provide informative and absorbing talking heads throughout the film. And more, he devotes the whole film to the very human story of Reed and Bryant. This is a love story across the dramatic world stage, the scope may be epic but the essence of the film is intimate and one of the heart. 

Diane Keaton, always a favourite of mine, delivers a strong performance as Bryant, the bored dentist's wife who leaves Portland to be heard, only to find the irony being that Reed's band of intellectuals are at first just as equally quick to dismiss her as someone who should be seen and not heard. Her Bryant is one who proves herself consistently throughout the film, and is one of spirit, loyalty and humour. 

Beatty's performance as Reed could have been something of an ego trip but the great and unusual thing about Warren Beatty is he's always been an actor happy to inject his star persona with several flaws and often a bit of a Himbo, boyish silliness and, whilst it would be terribly incorrect to term the intelligent principled Reed a Himbo in any way shape or form,  its gratifying to see Beatty continue to take the edge of his perceived perfection, even if the cack handed cooking scenes are a little intrusive and a noticeable injection of comic relief.

Lastly, I cannot conclude the review without mentioning two key cameos, Gene Hackman and more importantly, Jack Nicholson. Nicholson in particular is at his most impressive; a world away from his own screen persona, he provides a quiet and contemplative performance to great effect, in much the same way he did for Antonioni's The Passenger.

His cynical and morose playwright Eugene O'Neill, longing for Bryant's love, is a tour de force of understated passion and therefore his far stronger than his more ballsy all out acting in other movies.

At just over three hours long, Reds is a mammoth and true accomplishment and a real piece of mature film making and film acting from Beatty. 

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