American journalist John Reed journeys to Russia to document the Bolshevik Revolution and returns a revolutionary. His fervor for left-wing politics leads him to Louise Bryant, then married, who will become a feminist icon and activist. Politics at home become more complicated as the rift grows between reality and Reed's ideals. Bryant takes up with a cynical playwright, and Reed returns to Russia, where his health declines. Written by
According to Editor and Executive Producer Dede Allen, Warren Beatty first conceived making a movie about the life of John Reed around 1966. Reportedly, Beatty was vacationing in Russia during the 1960s, when he met a woman who had been a lover of John Reed, and who told Beatty of Reed's story. Later, it was around 1969 to 1970 that Beatty started learning Russian, allegedly so he could court the then married forty-four year old Russian ballerina Maya Plisetskaya, with whom he had reportedly become completely obsessed. See more »
During the tram ride in Petrograd there is a modern traffic sign visible (a yellow line on red background: forbidden driving direction). See more »
Was that in 1913 or 17? I can't remember now. Uh, I'm, uh, beginning to forget all the people that I used to know, see?
Do I remember Louise Bryant? Why, of course, I couldn't forget her if I tried.
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As the credits roll, additional interviews with the 'witnesses' play. See more »
This movie was great, and I hope it comes out on DVD real soon. Beatty became Reed in more than one sense--not only did he act the part, but he directed the movie in a way reminiscent of the kind of "new journalistic" style that Reed and his fellow MASSES writers pioneered, mixing the drama with interviews of people who knew JR, Louise, etc.
The film also sort of puts forward the question, "What if, instead of running back to Russia (to die of kidney failure and mistreatment by the CP), Jack Reed had stayed in this country to build the CP? Would it have turned out to become Stalinist?" According to Howe and Coser, who wrote a good book on THE AMERICAN COMMUNIST PARTY, much like Rosa Luxemburg and Karl Liebknecht in Germany, Reed was the ONLY leader who was independent, who had some real backbone.
The best part of the movie is when Emma Goldmann, played by Maureen Stapleton, tells Jack that "it doesn't work" (i.e. statist, bureaucratic socialism that the Bolsheviks were instituting as a grossly mistaken response to the economic crisis and Allied invasion of Russia after the Revolution). And then his rebellion against the lying propaganda of Zinoviev. Kind of hits me right now that Jerzy Kosinski should play Zinoviev--didn't he commit suicide when he was exposed as a plagiarist? Where is the line between art and reality, politics and life?
Of course I loved the romantic reality between Beatty, Bryant, and Nicholson (Reed, Bryant, and Eugene O'Neill). And the cynicism that Reed expresses about the Democrats and Wilson is certainly apropos today.
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