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  • Monday, October 02, 2006

     

    At last

    Twenty- five years later...

    You may not have noticed but we live in a world where you can purchase a Criterion edition of Michael Bay's Armageddon and a four (count'em, 4!) disc Directors Cut of Kingdom of Heaven. Yet, it took ten years since the advent of the pressed DVD (the first being Twister because a flying cow on VHS lacked verisimilitude) before they finally got around to releasing Warren Beatty's Reds on DVD.
    Just in time for its 25th anniversary, Warren Beatty's political epic "Reds" will debut on DVD on October 17 following a limited theatrical release in New York, Los Angeles and Washington.

    The story of a radical American journalist embroiled in the Bolshevik revolution, "Reds" won three Academy Awards, including director for Beatty and supporting actress for Maureen Stapleton.

    Paramount Home Entertainment's two-disc package will boast hours of special features, including a making-of documentary, an introduction to the cast, a discussion about the "witness" featured in the film and featurettes on the locations, sets, editing, scoring and audience reaction. The set also includes new interviews with Beatty, co-star Jack Nicholson, composer Stephen Sondheim and others.

    A red-carpet event will be held October 4 during the New York Film Festival, followed by a weeklong theatrical run at the ArcLight Cinemas in Los Angeles, Landmark E Street Theater in Washington and the Village East Theater in New York.

    Beatty, who also wrote and produced the film, starred as the lead character, journalist John Reed. The cast also included Edward Herrmann, Gene Hackman and Paul Sorvino and Maureen Stapleton. In all, it was nominated for 12 Academy Awards.


    What you think of Reds is open to debate (which I expect to be rather lively in comments) and I like to think that is what makes it special. If for no better reason, watch it for the "witnesses".
    THE Scott Joplin ragtime tune behind the opening credits of Warren Beatty's ''Reds'' recalls the sounds of pre-World War I America as they were heard then, when Greenwich Village was still a new Bohemia, free love was a way of life for the adventurous, new ideas were shaping the arts, and radical politics were more a matter of theory than practice. As the ragtime music fades out, voices fade in, contemporary voices that form a bridge to the past. ''Was that in 1917 or 1913?'' asks one. ''I'm beginning to forget.'' ''You know,'' another voice acknowledges, ''things go and come back.'' ''Were they Socialists?''

    One by one the faces that belong to these voices appear on the screen, seen in close-up against a luminously black void. Some are familiar - Rebecca West's, Henry Miller's, Adela Rogers St. Johns's - and all are very old (some have died since the interviews were filmed). Some are lined with the cobwebs of long life. Other faces, like Miller's, are as wrinkle-free as stretched parchment. Each in some way remembers that earlier time, if only, like George Jessel, who wears his U.S.O. uniform, to become confused. Jessel cannot remember whether the great anarchist and anti-World War I activist was named Emma Goldberg or Emma Goldman.

    These are the Witnesses - there are more than two dozen of them - who make up a kind of Greek chorus, the members of which appear from time to time throughout ''Reds'' to set the film in historical perspective, as much by what they remember accurately as by their gossip and by what they no longer recall. It's an extraordinary device, but ''Reds'' is an extraordinary film, a big romantic adventure movie, the best since David Lean's ''Lawrence of Arabia,'' as well as a commercial movie with a rare sense of history.
    I last saw Reds about twenty-odd years ago and I look forward to seeing how well it holds up today.


     

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