- With just the handsomeness of the production and the fine writing and acting throughout, Warren Beatty’s Reds would have been one of the stronger films of 1981. However, Beatty, brilliantly, chose to weave in interviews those who knew John Reed (played by Beatty himself) and Louise Bryant (Diane Keaton). These “witnesses” help create a fabulous formal structure (one that inspired Rob Reiner’s When Harry Met Sally). There is a simple but beautiful consistency to the visual design of their sections of the film.
- This is Beatty’s most ambitious project behind the camera. There is all this talk about Heaven’s Gate (Cimino, 1980) ending Hollywood’s artistically ambitious unchecked budget type film- but this was shot over nearly 250 days (Finland standing in for Russia, Spain used as well). Beatty uses tons (literally) of film. He would do take after take -there are great stories out there about Nicholson and Hackman complaining, 30, 50, 80, 100 takes of a scene. I think it must have been to capture good performances because the visual arrangements for most of the scenes are not overly complex/elaborate. It is the last film he would direct of the 1980s and he would only star in one more (Ishtar).
- Talk about collaborators: Reds has Vittorio Storaro (The Conformist, Apocalypse Now) as cinematographer and the great Stephen Sondheim (also would work with Beatty on Dick Tracy nearly a decade later) with the music
- This is the film that stopped Keaton’s collaborations with Woody for a number of years after Manhattan and helped launch the Mia Farrow era.
- The acting ensemble gathered for Reds is astounding. This is one of the best single performances from both Keaton and Beatty as the leads. Beatty was able to wrangle Jack Nicholson and Gene Hackman (two of the biggest stars on the planet in 1981) into smaller roles. Both had worked with Beatty in the past of course. Paul Sorvino is here, Emmett Walsh, Maureen Stapleton and George Plimpton. Stapleton actually won an Oscar, but after Beatty and Keaton (and perhaps even greater than Beatty) it is Nicholson’s work as Eugene O’Neill that shines the brightest. First off, as Beatty himself admitted, it is believable that Nicholson could come along and steal a girl from Warren Beatty—and, more importantly, Jack plays O’Neill with piercing confidence.
- The blowup fight between Beatty’s Reed and Keaton’s Bryant at the 40-minute mark is worth the price of a ticket alone. This is the “taken seriously” fight.
- A silhouette kiss shot just before the intermission – this certainly has to be one of the last theatrical releases to have an intermission.
- Beatty, even when playing a genius, is so good at playing a buffoon—he hits his head on the chandelier over and over- burns dinner in the kitchen.
- The screenplay is strong even if the writing never knocks you off your feet. There is an admirable refusal to pander that we do not often see in big budget epics (which is 100% what this is). This is a film about diplomacy and bureaucracy (along with the obvious romance with a historical backdrop). This is Gone With the Wind or Doctor Zhivago in that regard—many locations, extras, budget and running time. And the duration matters when it comes to their love story. When Beatty finally delivers the train station scene these two characters have lived a full life together.
- A heavyweight Keaton performance, temperamental.
- The final doorway shot at the death bed— a great frame and Beatty knows it and he holds it.
- A Must-See film- top five of the year quality
This reminds me that you didn’t mention Diane Keaton in 1981.
@MASH- ahh nice catch. By and large I am not going to go back and relitigate these pages (slippery slope there) but this seems like a quick fix. Thank you.
You added her, but it seems you did not bold her name like you have done for every other best performance mention.
@Graham- thank you on both this and the One from the Heart page- should be fixed
The page for The Man Who Wasn’t There is also broken.
@Zane- thank you
Since you had lowered this to a HR/MS on the 1981 page, where do you think this would land on there now?
@Zane- I’m not sure I understand this question here- my apologies
My meaning is if you remade the top 10, where this is 9th, do you think it might land a few spots higher?
@Zane- Ah- yes I do see it landing a spot or two higher at least
I have a pretty weird question to ask & I can trust only you for the most accurate answer. So What’s the most Bernardo Bertolucci film, that’s not directed by him. I ask it here because one of my friends said it’s Reds. And I get that. It’s maybe because of The Last Emperor. Epic biopics shot by Vittorrio Storaro.
@MASH – I’d need more time to think but Mr. Klein reminds me of The Conformist in a lot of ways, same with Le Samourai (throw in all the Delon and Melville I suppose there), of course 1900 and Once Upon a Time in America get compared to eachother at every possible opportunity… now that you ask this question I see a lot of Bertolucci in Nicolas Winding Refn’s work actually with both the controversial content with sex and violence but also much of the frame design including usage of lighting and color (look at some of the images on their various pages and the yearly pages in which their films were released and I think you could see what I’m getting at).
Greenaway is of course very similar to Refn and I see the same comparisons I made with Refn and Bertolucci in Greenaway’s work. Also they’re pretty different films in most other respects I think but Trintignant and Moschin (the other agent in The Conformist) sort of remind me of von Sydow and Björnstrand in The Seventh Seal.
I’ve not seen Mr. Kline but Winding Refn is an excellent choice but first you need to slow it a bit & replace it’s look with the less blurry look of Inside Llewyn Davis.
@MASH- Interesting- I’m not sure I have a great answer. I think Bertolucci has less of a “type” than many great auteurs. I think with the handsome epics you could mention Visconti. I think because of the handsomeness tied to the subject matter if you had told me Bertolucci directed Kundun I’d believe you. I like the Reds comparison as well but Beatty does seem more practical than Bertolucci
Thanks for amazing suggestions. Yeah you’re right. It’s much easier to find a film that’s very similar to Scorsese’s or Tarantino’s style than say Bertolucci or Terrence Davies.