Sunday, 27 October 2013

Reds (1981)

Contrary to popular belief among my friends, I do occasionally watch 'quality' films. Reds is Warren Beatty's Oscar-winning biopic of John Reed, not the Bruce Willis action movie about retired spies.  Though I have seen that film too, and it was pretty good.

Reed was the US journalist who wrote Ten Days That Shook the World, a first person account of the Bolshevik revolution. An avowed socialist, Reed would ultimately die in Russia and be buried in the Kremlin.

Though Reed is the nominal subject and protagonist, I felt the film more truly seemed to revolve around his wife, Louise Bryant, also a journalist and also present in Russia during rhe revolution. Her character is the one who seems to grow in strength and self-belief over the course of the movie.  She begins as something of a talented but directionless dilettante, but matures into a skilled writer and a person who is willing to undergo considerable hardship and danger for what is important to her.  Reed also experiences life-changing moments, but I found his story felt less personal; more an everyman tale of the socialist experience in the early 20th century.

Diane Keaton turns in an excellent performance as Bryant, and is superbly matched by Beatty as Reed, and Jack Nicholson as playwright Eugene O'Neill.  All three were deservedly nominated for Oscars for their performance, though none of them won (Beatty did pick up Best Director, though).

I do feel that at 195 minutes, the film is longer than it needed to be, and some of the pacing choices are not what I would have done. But this is a well - and lovingly - crafted film about a turbulent and important time in the world. Well worth a look if you have the patience for it.

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