In 1980, as President Reagan commenced his loony rhetorical war on the "the evil empire" ofSoviet Russia, thoughtful heartthrob Warren Beatty was labouring over Reds
, a three-hour homage to the Bolshevik revolution, backed to the tune of $33 million by the Gulf + Western-owned Paramount Pictures. Beatty had long admired John Reed, the American journalist who witnessed Lenin's finest hours and was buried in the Kremlin after his death in 1920. To Beatty's great credit, he delivered a picture that is both epic pageant and tragic romance, replete with affectionate respect for the best traditions of socialism.
Reds begins in 1915 in Portland, Oregon, where Reed (Beatty), budding radical and chronicler of Pancho Villa's Mexican uprising, makes the acquaintance of Louise Bryant (Diane Keaton), proto-feminist and aspiring writer. He and Louise become lovers amid the intellectual ferment of Greenwich Village and Provincetown, but her affair with the brilliant, melancholy Eugene O'Neill (Jack Nicholson) cleaves them asunder. Still, inspired by tumultuous events in Russia, they re-team for a mission to Moscow, where they rekindle their ardour and wind up storming the Winter Palace. Back in the US, Reed composes Ten Days That Shook the World while Louise discovers her own formidable voice. But Reed's factional feuds within the American Socialist Party lead him back to Moscow, where disillusion and heartbreak lie in store.
Two years in production, shot across six countries, Reds was a massively risky undertaking. Producer-director Beatty hired the brilliant Trevor Griffiths as screenwriter, but other hands massagedthe script. Still, this is an epic in which the dialogues are as thrilling as the panoramas. Reed's dialectical tussles with Emma Goldman (Maureen Stapleton) and Grigory Zinoviev (writer Jerzy Kosinski) are worth the cost of a video, as are Keaton's stinging exchanges with Nicholson. This rathermagisterial endeavour won Beatty the Best Director Oscar in 1982. --Richard Kelly
Great Video, Drama from Paramount pictures starring Warren Beatty & Diane Keaton, 186 mins approx run time, fast dispatch, UK SELLER