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4.7 out of 5 stars
Reds [HD DVD] [1981] [US Import] [2006]
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37 of 42 people found the following review helpful
#1 HALL OF FAMEon 12 February 2007
Reds is the brilliant biopic of journalist/radical John Reed that Warren Beatty directed in 1981. This was a labour of love for Beatty, who had built up power in Hollywood to make this suitably epic film on such films as Shampoo and Heaven Can Wait.

The film is very long, which could put off many- though it shouldn't as the material is of immense interest. This highly ambitious film opens with Reed living among bohemians/radicals in New York & Provincetown and charts his love affair with both Louise Bryant and communism. The first part of the film is more successful, where Bryant/Reed's affair goes up & down and Jack Nicholson comes between them in a brilliant portrayal of playwright Eugene O'Neill. This section is wonderfully photographed by Vittorio Storaro, the photographer of such brilliant films as The Conformist and Apocalypse Now Redux. Then as the relationship develops into marriage, various spectres rise: the conflict between love & principles, World War I and the complex world of socialism in America at that time (the so-called Red Decade).

The latter half of the film, which sees Reed and Bryant go to Russia, where the revolution occurred and Reed wrote his classic account of it Ten Days That Shook the World. Again, Moscow looks stunning- though the film descends into a more conventional form- we get a sub-Zhivago reunion , Keaton's proto-feminist character is neutueured by devotion and we even get an action sequence (though this does end with the symbolic Reed chasing after a cart- the same shot as we saw from the opening shot of Reed in Mexico). The final scenes, where Reed is TB afflicted and Bryant sees a young child (the obligatory one they never had) is extremely conventional and melodramatic.

The best feature of the film is the use of the 'witnesses'- people from the contemporary life of Bryant & Reed who offer opinions and perceptions on them. These are wonderful as they contradict each other and can be seen as Beatty stating that the sections where he & Keaton play Reed & Bryant it is fiction and the definitive notion of truth & realism in the biopic is impossible. Though Robert Rosenstone in Visions of the Past questions this technique- which could just be a result of being 'used' by Beatty for research purposes. The film was even satirised by Keaton's ex-lover Woody Allen with 1983's Zelig.

Reds is one of the great films of American cinema, that would influence later directors such as Oliver Stone- the only criticism is that it tries to be too many things. Still, when was the last time you saw a high-budget film that tackled communism,sexual equality ,feminism, revolution and socialism? At this price it would be offensive not to watch this film- though to read behind the film, it might be pertinent to read the books Romantic Revolutionary & Ten Days that Shook the World. Having said that, the latter (Reed's masterpiece) fictionalised actual events- which puts into question the historian's frequent criticism of this film and the biopic in general. I suppose the equivalent film to Reds in the 1990's was Titanic, which demonstrates how far American cinema has sunk regarding ambition. Reds is one of Beatty's finest works also and a labour of love that was well worth making - even if it caused Beatty to vanish from cinema for several years following. A true classic...

Reds is a film that won a few Oscars, but seems somewhat forgotten. It was an anomalie, an end product of New Hollywood like Kagemusha, Heaven's Gate, One from the Heart and Mishima: A Life in Four Chapters. They probably don't make them like this anymore. Beatty didn't make another film for years. But in a time such as these, this film has many pertinent messages in and falls in not only with the recent likes of Good Night & Good Luck, but American souls like Abraham Lincoln, John Dos Passos, John Steinbeck and folk like Reed, Goldman & Bryant. Reds is proof that liberal isn't a dirty word and is a brilliant epic worthy of David Lean with plenty of political detail, a forgotten film that finally is on DVD...
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15 of 18 people found the following review helpful
I love epics. The longer the film, the symphony, the novel, the greater the opportunity to immerse oneself in the work and the greater the sense of achievement, of catharsis at the end. "Reds" is an epic, but it is difficult for me to love it, to embrace it. It seems to me to be the work of some immense ego, no matter how fine or important the rest of the characters, no matter how strenuous the efforts made in recreating the times and places in which the film is set.

For this is not so much a film about American socialists and communists at the time of the First World War and the Russian Revolution, but rather, in essence, Warren Beatty's epic focuses on the last few years of the life of his character John/Jack Reed. Everything else impinges on this premise, even the smallest of details of Reed's affair with Louise Bryant (played by Diane Keaton), which makes up the bulk of the movie. There is scarcely a shot without Beatty in the frame, and since the film lasts over three hours, this can become trying. Many of the scenes are superfluous to the central story and one can only speculate that the film is less to do with Jack Reed and more to do with Warren Beatty.

Indeed, others have already commentated upon the personal links between Reed and Beatty, not only in their personal circumstances but also in their political and philosophical outlooks. Reed was a writer; Beatty is a film-maker. At what point does the artist - the writer, the film-maker - become a polemicist? I am not unsympathetic to Reed's/Beatty's political views, and the story of how Reed, an American left-wing journalist ended up in Russia to report on the revolution, is one of immense interest, especially as he not only has to wrestle with contrary opinions and facts of everyday life but also has to wrestle with his own beliefs and conscience. But over three hours?

What helps me forgive Beatty his apparent self-indulgence are the witnesses. At the very start and throughout the following 188 minutes, the film interweaves the testimonies of those who lived through these years and knew Jack Reed personally. They speak direct to the camera in front of a plan black background, telling their fascinating stories and anecdotes. They are not a Greek chorus, but rather witnesses to the story's own veracity. They are touching, brutal, funny and charming. They break up the unwieldy canvas into manageable pieces, allowing the viewer space to breathe and reflect. Without them, the movie would lose much of its fascination.

Finally, for those wondering whether the extras on the 25th anniversary edition are worth the investment, well yes, they are! They comprise a series of interlocking films. Many of the stars and of the production team are interviewed and can give their considered opinions of their work after a quarter century's reflection. Naturally, Warren Beatty dominates proceedings, but it was his project after all: actor, screenwriter, director and producer. And it's welcome to experience his self-deprecating manner. These films are, in order: "The Rising" (how the film came about); "Comrades" (the cast); "Testimonials" (the witnesses); "The march" (locations and cinematography); "Revolution" (filming the big scenes); and "Propaganda" (music and other postproduction).

All in all, then, a finely flawed film of epic proportions.
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TOP 500 REVIEWERon 11 December 2011
The kind of film that has sadly just about disappeared - the personal,
auteur driven epic. Very rarely if ever now will a studio give a film
maker huge funds to do a risky, personal, not obviously commercial
project, one that could never be made as a `small' film.

While critics can nit pick, and a few of their points may be valid (both
Beatty and Diane Keaton were at least 10 years older then their real life characters,
making some behavior seem overly naive and juvenile instead of understandable
for their youth and inexperience), overall this is a masterful combining of the big picture
and the personal, and how the two interrelate in life. How do we deal with emotions that
are much messier than our ideals of how to live?

It explores the twin faces of revolution - the sometimes desperate need to fight to
create a new order, but the danger that the new order may be just as corrupt as the old.

Rare is the film that deeply, honestly explores both idealism and the dark realities of
political compromise. Rarer still is the film that explores both in a personal way, without
judgment, but with deep insight.

Beautifully shot by Vitorio Storraro, wonderful production design.

Keaton and Beatty are very good in the leads, and the supporting cast, down to the
smallest role, is generally magnificent. Especially amazing are Maureen Stapleton
as Emma Goldman, and Jack Nicholson in one of his very best (and most restrained)
performances as Eugene O'Neil. He may capture the true pain of trying to live through
the eyes of an artist as well as anyone I've ever seen.

Thrilling, challenging, gorgeous, emotional and epic. They don't make 'em
like this anymore, and that's our loss.
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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
on 26 December 2008
Thia is a great film which recalls a time when there was generally more patience and respect for intelligent political dramas without predominant 'thriller' or 'action' elements to maintain the viewer's attention.

Love story, satisfyingly detailed political drama, documentary, all elements of the film are satisfied and none dominate. It's beautifully shot also, with some great locations in Europe serving the period detail.

In case you're worried about that fabled 'liberal bias', the film is a model for attempting to represent the real complexity of the 'balanced truth', showing, in both drama and documentary, both idealism and the inevitable disillusionment with it. There is absolutely no sense of that all-too-common 'take home message' here. The documentary elements in particular show more balance than many 'true' documentaries, and do so with great humour and warmth. It gradually becomes very clear Beatty didn't want to heavily edit these to 'bury' contradictory accounts, but instead pay patient tribute to the memories of those surviving members of the original events.

Although, as mentioned in the review above, Reed wrote the undeniably biased 'Ten Days That Shook The World', the drama of this film goes well beyond the idealism of that work, and is admirable in showing at length his colleagues' disillusionment, even when it risks exposing Reed's naivity.

I should finally advise that this film is actually split over two Blu-ray discs (BD-25's) here, so you have to insert the second disc to continue the film.
If you have a computer with a Blu-ray drive, though, it's relatively easy to copy and rename the largest MPEG-2 '.m2ts' files from each disc to hard disk (with programs like 'AnyDVDHD') and join them together.
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Commencement of the film, and periodically later, with anecdotes by interviewed Americans in America who were alive during the period of the Russian and Bolshevik Revolutions, was a disturbing distraction and spoilt the film's dramatic quality. For that reason alone I give it only four stars.
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on 29 April 2013
Wanted a DVD of this film for a very long time and well worth the wait. A great and underestimated movie and a real tour-de-force for Warren Beatty as both actor and director. Highlights a long-forgotten and overlooked period of history, and the 'witness' inserts are excellent.
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7 of 10 people found the following review helpful
#1 HALL OF FAMEon 22 October 2002
Reds is the brilliant biopic of journalist/radical John Reed that Warren Beatty directed in 1981. This was a labour of love for Beatty, who had built up power in Hollywood to make this suitably epic film on such films as Shampoo and Heaven Can Wait.
The film is very long, which could put off many- though it shouldn't as the material is of immense interest. This highly ambitious film opens with Reed living among bohemians/radicals in New York & Provincetown and charts his love affair with both Louise Bryant and communism. The first part of the film is more successful, where Bryant/Reed's affair goes up & down and Jack Nicholson comes between them in a brilliant portrayal of playwright Eugene O'Neill. This section is wonderfully photographed by Vittorio Storaro, the photographer of such brilliant films as The Conformist and Apocalypse Now Redux. Then as the relationship develops into marriage, various spectres rise: the conflict between love & principles, World War I and the complex world of socialism in America at that time (the so-called red decade).
The latter half of the film, which sees Reed and Bryant go to Russia, where the revolution occurred and Reed wrote his classic account of it Ten Days That Shook the World. Again, Moscow looks stunning- though the film descends into a more conventional form- we get a sub-Zhivago reunion , Keaton's proto-feminist character is neutueured by devotion and we even get an action sequence (though this does end with the symbolic Reed chasing after a cart- the same shot as we saw from the opening shot of Reed in Mexico). The final scenes, where Reed is TB afflicted and Bryant sees a young child (the obligatory one they never had) is extremely conventional and melodramatic.
The best feature of the film is the use of the 'witnesses'- people from the contemporary life of Bryant & Reed who offer opinions and perceptions on them. These are wonderful as they contradict each other and can be seen as Beatty stating that the sections where he & Keaton play Reed & Bryant it is fiction and the definitive notion of truth & realism in the biopic is impossible. Though Robert Rosenstone in Visions of the Past questions this technique- which could just be a result of being 'used' by Beatty for research purposes. The film was even satirised by Keaton's ex-lover Woody Allen with 1983's Zelig.
Reds is one of the great films of American cinema, that would influence later directors such as Oliver Stone- the only criticism is that it tries to be too many things. Still, when was the last time you saw a high-budget film that tackled communism,sexual equality ,feminism, revolution and socialism? At this price it would be offensive not to watch this film- though to read behind the film, it might be pertinent to read the books Romantic Revolutionary & Ten Days that Shook the World. Having said that, the latter (Reed's masterpiece) fictionalised actual events- which puts into question the historian's frequent criticism of this film and the biopic in general. I suppose the equivalent film to Reds in the 1990's was Titanic, which demonstrates how far American cinema has sunk regarding ambition. Reds is one of Beatty's finest works also and a labour of love that was well worth making - even if it caused Beatty to vanish from cinema for several years following. A true classic.
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on 5 March 2010
Ordered the DVD which came within 3 days. Excellent service. I am not sure it is a true representation of the Rovolution in the USSR though. Fictionised in the service of Warren Beatty and the USA?
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on 26 December 2012
Warren Beatty deserves a Nobel Prize for capturing those old folks' memories of an incredible, monumental & turbulent hostory before they were lost forever.
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on 9 January 2013
This super film even with its length never became boring. The acting was superb and then the extra with Warren Beatty was superb and well worth watching.
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