Sunday, April 19, 2015


"She seems to shake and fidget with the threat of provincialism; but she is uncertain enough to be on the point of giggling at her own outrageousness. It is an ingenious manner, suggestive of period even if it is invented, and a way of making Reds start out as the story of woman on her way to suffrage and identity."  -- David Thomson

Diane Keaton had been off the screen for two and a half years when Reds was released in December 1981, which may be a surprise since _______ . Reds went into production in the summer of 1979, shortly after the release of Manhattan, and principal photography lasted a year, _________. .... Beatty reportedly did up to 80 takes per scene. Jack Nicholson, who played Eugene O'Neill, reportedly was reduced to tears. But Keaton has credited Beatty's method with helping her discover things she hadn't expected. ""It took the tragic reunion of John Reed and Louise Bryant at the train station for me to find a sense of pride in playing such a provocative character. Warren waited through something like sixty-five excrutiating close-ups before I finally broke through my self-imposed wall of defiance and let go of my judgment call on a woman I needed to love in order to play. Shooting the scene was an experience I couldn't have foreseen. Because of Warren's tenacity, suddenly against all odds, love came rushing through when Louise Bryant saw John Reed's face approaching hers at last..." 



At one point Maureen Stapleton, who would win the Academy Award as Best Supporting Actress for her role as Emma Goldman in the film, shouted.


[gonna cut this sheet]: In the meantime Jane Fonda had soared again and Jill Clayburgh had ascended. But Interiors showed Keaton could be out of tune. At the time I didn't give Manhattan its due. And then Meryl Streep and a re-created Sissy Spacek, and Jessica Lange and many others... And Reds, in production for two years, had sounded like a contraption, big and dominated by structure.

The trailer did not look promising: Keaton, in period clothing as Louise Bryant, crouching on a stairwell arguing with Warren Beatty as John Reed, looked stilted. Reed has invited Bryant to go to New York with him. "What as?" she demands. "Your wife, your mistress, your paramour?" "It's almost Thanksgiving," Reed replies, "Why don't you come as a turkey?" The movie itself looked corny--the wittiest retort Reed could come up with was that, and it made the trailer?

Keaton had earlier been, even if mannered, unusually natural and authentic. But the trailer for Reds threatened some of the unconvincing archness of her poet Renata in Interiors. Perhaps some types of dialogue were, without a guard, outside of Keaton's range (although her Mary Wilkes had showed that she could be devastating as an intellectual).

And then Reds opened, and there was Keaton, giving an epic performance.  I've read that some young gay men in the 1940's identified with Bette Davis in Now, Voyager--with Charlotte Vale's transformation from repressed spinster to a woman engaged with life. So it was for me at age 18 with Diane Keaton as Louise Bryant. In the early scenes, Louise seemed like a poseur about her writing, but real--honest and unafraid to seem insecure--in her relationship with Reed. Beatty, "boyish" in manner and in his extraordinary good looks, precisely captures Reed's side of the dynamic. David Thomson wrote that Keaton as Louise "always looks at him like someone who has had more than enough of his nonsense and hardly an hour of his true attention…."

The character of Louise polarized critics. Pauline Kael wrote that in the first half she "is presented as a tiresome, pettishy hostile woman--dissatisfied because she isn't taken seriously but not giving anyone reason to take her seriously…." David Thomson, though, wrote that as "she complains about being overshadowed by him, we want to reach out and tell her she's better, deeper, more real. Her love for him never forgets the dread of being slighted, but it learns a compassion for his boyishness….”

As for many of us in the audience, how critics felt about Louise's character seemed to correlate their responses to Keaton's performance. Almost all recognized that Louise was difficult and somewhat abrasive. Many found this to be part of a heroic struggle for her own identity, but others, including probably many in the popular audience, were unsympathetic.

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The Witnesses

“....Begin the praise with Diane Keaton, a special pleasure because unexpected. 'Louise was a very beautiful woman,' Elizabeth Olsen wrote me. There's a certain style in which photographs show that to be true, and in that styles, Keaton is beautiful, too--as she is dressed and lighted here. Her look and manner, sexual and mercurial, imperious yet tender, are the ground of Keaton's performance as the New Woman, a figurative sister of Isadora Duncan, entering the 20th century with an appetite for every freedom, with the air of a released prisoner's vengeance for wrongful pas confinement. Nothing in Keaton's previous work prepared me for the fire and determination and fullness with which she lifts this woman into being. Allow for Beatty's perception of her possibilities, for the help he apparently gave her indirection; it's Keaton who did it, even triumphing over some bits of rhetoric that come her way. She is the legendary Louise whom Jack needed. (Evidently, Louise needed Jack even more. After a subsequent marriage that failed, she ended with a wretched, drugged, drunken death 16 years after he died.)”

Stanley KauffmannThe New Republic, Dec. 16, 1981

Other than being lukewarm about Keaton in Annie Hall, Kauffmann had been hostile--almost John-Simon-like--about her other earlier performances, even bringing her up just to disparage her in a column praising Jane Fonda (The New Republic, Feb. ___, 1979.) So his praise for her in Reds was very welcome. After Reds, he returned to his earlier dismay. I think some of her follow-up performances were great. But well, Reds was different--if not more inventive, simply more controlled.

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“But even our staunchest Red-scare guardians could not write off the Communism that makes John and Louise so fresh, so alert and handsome, so sensitive to others…. No one in the movie is lampooned or stereotyped; and no one is allowed to stray into the fantasy field of absolute right or wrong…. Diane Keaton always looks at [Beatty] like someone who has had more than enough of his nonsense and hardly an hour of his true attention….

“…. In sexual politics, Louise is so much more radical and urgent than Reed. She has been oppressed; Reed has only seen and read about the picturesque suffering of others. Diane Keaton's performance in those early scenes presages her best work yet. She seems to shake and fidget with the threat of provincialism; but she is uncertain enough to be on the point of giggling at her own outrageousness. It is an ingenious manner, suggestive of period even if it is invented, and a way of making Reds start out as the story of woman on her way to suffrage and identity.

“....Beatty is not the easiest actor to play with: he can be chilly and hidden on screen--not so much out of vanity as caution. Some actresses have wilted in his presence, but Keaton assaults him, reads him the riot act, mauls him until the actor-producer-director rediscovers his own charm--that speechless perplexity in which the mouth gapes, the head turns, and a grin steals across the face so that we know he will never grow up. In such moments, Reed's fame seems that much less mature than Bryant's. As she complains about being overshadowed by him, we want to reach out and tell her she's better, deeper, more real. Her love for him never forgets the dread of being slighted, but it learns a compassion for his boyishness….”

David ThomsonFilm Comment, Jan/Feb 1982

“…. Beatty may see in Keaton not just the realization of his sense of Louis Bryant, John Reed's wife, but the living woman. And Keaton is very far from just the best available actress for this central role, she is a shy but assertive woman, a good photographer (someone with her own work) who will display a cool ironic sensibility in Reservations (a study of hotel lobbies) and Still Life, her droll collection of Hollywood production stills. No other Beatty film contains so large or troubling a portrait of a woman, or is so concerned with sexual politics. And Diane Keaton deserves great credit for that, not simply as a performer but as a generating influence, the voice and independence Beatty hears the most. Reds has remarkable quarrels between Reed and Louise. It is not simply a film of seductions and betrayals, like Shampoo. It rages with the texture of everyday failure and company. A woman argues with Beatty on screen, silencing him again and again, and the tiredness in his face is not acting, but his age and the ordinary, unhideable dimming of innocence.”

ThomsonWarren Beatty and Desert Eyes, pp 342-343

Thomson is one of the very few critics who liked Keaton in The Godfather movies. More than liked: he compared her integrity to Lillian Gish. For Thomson, though, as for Kauffmann, she never again approached Reds.

“…. It was a bizarre decision, when the best actress Oscar went instead to Katharine Hepburn in On Golden Pond--worthy, but hardly a match for the complex portrait of lover, heroine, feminist, and weary companion to a celebrity that Keaton (and Beatty) made of Bryant….

Thomson, A Biographical Dictionary of Film, Third Edition (1994), p 391
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“…. Diane Keaton's Louise Bryant is the film's greatest triumph--a rich, complex portrait of a woman one comes to love, but only after struggling through a maze of ambiguous responses. In her day, Bryant was viewed by skeptics as a climber and an exhibitionist, and Keaton isn't afraid to show us her posturing, dilettantish side. She's a woman acting out her liberation before her emotions have caught up with her ideas (who can't identify with that?). But she's also a determined romantic heroine, trekking across the frozen wastes of Finland to try to reach her lover rotting away in a Finnish jail…. Keaton doesn't wow you with classical technique, but with her subtle emotional honesty. It's a great performance--maybe the best this year--tender, raw, moving and always fresh….”

David AnsenNewsweek, December 7, 1981
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A month after Reds was released, Pauline Kael wrote that Keaton was the first actress since Jane Fonda in Klute--over ten years earlier--who showed "the strength and instinct for the toughest dramatic roles--intelligent, sophisticated heroines." But Kael was writing of Keaton's performance in Shoot the Moon, released about a month after Reds, in January 1982. Kael lavished praise on a number of Keaton's performances in the 1980's, but Reds was an exception:

“…. The principal structural weakness is, I think, that the writers didn't work out a scrutable character for Louise Bryant…. [S]omewhere inside Reds the idea may be floating around that … a pretty woman can't be a revolutionary--only the consort of revolutionaries. Louise Bryant is presented as a tiresome, pettishy hostile woman--dissatisfied because she isn't taken seriously but not giving anyone reason to take her seriously…. Louise is a combination of a giddy dilettante, a groupie, and a driven woman (she has a lot of Catherine in Jules and Jim in her), and she's always griping or storming off somewhere. Reed seems to spend the entire movie trying to placate her, and his close friend Eugene O'Neill (Jack Nicholson) is in love with her, yet we're never shown what either of them sees in her. (She's Catherine without the magic.) And we never learn what is crucial, and what might have given Diane Keaton a clue to how to play the part: Is Bryant's jealousy of Reed that of an untalented woman or a talented one? It takes Keaton a long time to get any kind of bearings; at the start her nervous speech patterns are anachronistic--she seems to be playing a premature post-hippie neurotic.,,."

“Beatty [the director] has his strengths. He keeps the actors close to us--he has a felling for intimacy. And he knows how to use actors. He has a trained instinct, and he doesn't let them get away with fakery…. None of the performances are bad (with the one crucial exception) . . .

Pauline KaelNew Yorker, December 21, 1981
Taking It All In, pp. 278-282

Kael had reportedly urged Beatty not to make Reds. In 1979, Beatty had persuaded Kael to leave film reviewing to work on film production in Hollywood. About that time, Reds was beginning principal photography after years of pre-production. Kael may have felt she observed first-hand what she wrote in her review:

"It's possible that Beatty ... got so far into the material and changed his thinking so many times that he lost the clarity needed to dramatize it. The excitement that he must once have seen in Reed's life leaked out...."

The writer-director James Toback, once a friend of Kael's who also had worked with her in Beatty's production company, told Kael's biographer Brian Kellow that he thought Kael went after Keaton's performance to strike at Beatty. Kael's experience in Hollywood on Beatty's production team hadn't worked out. Toback's story doesn't seem likely. Granted, he had once been good friends with her-- but it's possible that his assessment of her motives was influence by his own unhappy working relationship with her after Beatty hired her to produce Toback's film Love and Money. (Toback had her replaced.)

If anything, Kael was probably influenced by her own experiences living in Bohemian circles in 1940's New York and early Beat circles in 1950's San Francisco.That was decades after Reds was set, but Kael no doubt had to deal with some of the same issues Louise Bryant did.
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Like Kael, David Denby is another critic who greatly admired Keaton in a number of other films, but not in Reds. He also hadn't liked the character of Louise Bryant:

“When Louise Bryant first accosts the celebrated Jack Reed in Portland, she appears to be a bit of a phony and hustler--a provincial show-off scandalizing the local stuffed shirts by posing nude for 'art' photographs. Her teeth and eyes glinting under a large black hat, Diane Keaton is strident and shallowly self-assertive. For a while we imagine that the thinness of her manner is intentional--Keaton's notion of how a pioneer liberated woman might push too hard. But it turns out that Diane Keaton doesn't have enough shadings to play this role. When Louise moves into Reed's Village apartment and no one takes her writing seriously, she's even more hard-edged and shrill.

“Keaton may be at sea because the movie gives no indication, at this point, of why she should be taken as anything but a self-centered hanger-on.  We hear scraps of her journalism later on, but only scraps. If Beatty wanted to revive Louise Bryant as a historical figure, why didn't he let us know if she had any talent as a writer?

“In his excellent 1975 biography of Reed, Romantic Revolutionary, Robert A. Rosenstone describes Bryant as 'flamboyant, reckless, and wild,' and he includes a photograph of her lying nude on the beach in Provincetown, long hair flowing, breasts thrust upward--the defiant eroticism of her pose is worthy of Isadora Duncan, in marked contrast to Keaton's demure semi-nudity. Keaton can be soft and flirtatious, but there's no lyrical flash in her work--she's monotonous and inflexible just when she needs to be electric. Jack Nicholson shows up ... as Eugene O'Neill ... and we can't figure out why he wants to go to be with her so badly. Essentially, Keaton is out of period--closer to the prosy, attitudinizing Village Voice of 1972 than to the spontaneous Greenwich Village of, say, Edna St. Vincent Millay.

“Beatty and Griffiths's idea of this couple is that they prefigured most of today's sexual dilemmas. Passionate and selfish, loving and ambitious, committed to 'free love' yet instinctively possessive, neither can give up a thing, so they're always fighting. Beatty seems to have been genuinely altered by feminism. He's trying desperately to believe in sexual equality; he wants the true love climax in the movie to come when Reed and Bryant's dispatches from Russia overlap and intermingle on the soundtrack. But he's got the wrong actress, and perhaps the wrong heroine, too.”

David Denby, New York, December 14, 1981

“Warren Beatty has said that it was Keaton's performance in Goodbar that aroused his interest in her, but the role he gave her in Reds… left her looking for a coherent character to play. She was much better--luminous, really--as the California housewife in Shoot the Moon….”

DenbyPremiere, November 1988
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Pauline Kael had many younger reviewers in her circle--Denby could not be counted by 1981--and some shared her take on Keaton's performance. James Wolcottfor example, reviewing Shoot the Moon, wrote:

“Diane Keaton ... needed to be decaffeinated in Reds....," Texas Monthly, March 1982.

Others, though, differed. I don't know what Stephen Schiff's association with Kael was, but their tastes were often similar. However:


“…. Like Annie Hall, this movie is a valentine to Diane Keaton....

 “…. This movie needs a strong John Reed the way the bits of a collage need glue, and it doesn't have one. What it has is Diane Keaton. Her Louise is smart, sexy, and a bit of a poseur, an early proptoype of the flapper who likes to shock and yet wants to be taken seriously -- and can't see why the one should interfere with the other. Keaton has never been an actorish actress. Her technique may flag or even disappear, but she burbles along on an amateur's energy. It's a great approach to comedy, because she's so limpid you can see right through her; you get two incongruous performances at once, the inner one and the outer one. But in drama, Keaton's been pallid and strained. This is the first time she's harnessed that self-consciousness and vitality of hers to a dramatic role, and it works because Louise herself is a self-conscious amateur: a pretender with something real beneath the pretense. In Reds, Keaton looks bunny-cute one moment and ravaged and wrinkly the next, and when Reed is trapped in a Finnish prison and Louise decides to rescue him, her courage comes shooting out from beneath her flapper airs like fireworks.”

Stephen SchiffBoston Phoenix, Dec ? 1981


“Diane Keaton, as Louise Bryant, shows an uncanny ability to express vulnerability when she's being aggressive and belligerent. Indeed, her outbursts are usually signs that she's been cut to the quick. Bryant constantly challenges herself to experiences and achievements that do not come easily to her personality. Her biggest test is Eugene O'Neill. Their affair exposes her ambivalence about romantic commitment.

 “…. [Nicholson's] relaxed and slithery, a charming serpent to Louise Bryant's brave-new-world Eve. “Working with Beatty must make actors (and nonactors like George Plimpton) deliriously happy. Keaton convinces us, as she never has before, that she can play a woman of backbone, and Beatty's self-effacement is itself almost an act of love….”

Michael SragowRolling Stone, January 21, 1982

“On the basis of Reds and now Shoot the Moon, Diane Keaton can lay claim to being the most vivid, talented actress at work in American movies today…."

SragowRolling Stone, February 18, 1982

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Andrew Sarris and Molly Haskell had been two of the biggest admirers of Keaton's dramatic performance in Looking for Mr. Goodbar, as well as her under-rated performance in Woody Allen's Manhattan. Sarris, especially was a Woody Allen fan; he and Haskell also liked Keaton as Annie Hall.


“.... [T]he final romantic thrust of the film is the passionate pilgrimage of Diane Keaton's Louise Bryant across the icy wastes of Finland and Russian to her man of dire destiny. Will contemporary audiences accept such a romantic denouncement involving two such modernistically ironic and self-conscious temperaments as Keaton's and Beatty's? I am not sure. Diane Keaton is not blessed with Julie Christie's sensational photogeneity, but she projects an inner beauty of tenderness and nobility….

“…. Nor does [Reds] turn sour on the aspirations of its characters. What happens instead is that the John Reed of Warren Beatty, the Louise Bryant of Diane Keaton, and, above all, the wondrously romantic Eugene O'Neill of Jack Nicholson upstage the radical chic of their time and even the Russian Revolution a prophetically poignant meditation on the problems of men and women trying at long last in human history to live and love as equals or, in the political parlance of their movement, as comrades. In this respect, Reds is an unintended rebuke to the chill absurdism of the 'modern' episodes in The French Lieutenant's Woman. Yes, Beatty and Keaton and Nicholson proclaim to all who will hear, there can be a great, enduring passion shared by "modern" characters who write and think and talk and act on the stage of history. One need not go back to past centuries and more exotic cultures. Here finally are people who can recognize turning points in their lives. There is something infinitely touching, for example, in Keaton's suddenly looking up at Beatty in a Moscow hovel, and thanking him for giving her the journalistic break of her life….”

Andrew SarrisVillage Voice, December 2-8, 1981
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“But the girl from the provinces hangs in there, and Keaton, though hardly the dashing beauty that Bryant was reported to be, conveys another kind of beauty: the inner stages in a woman's awakening. In the humiliation she suffers, in her desperate desire to be taken seriously, in her attempts to rewrite the rules of love and marriage, and finally in her trek across the wastes of Finland in search of her husband, it is her voyage, more than Reed's, that contains the stuff of heroism. I like to think that Beatty saw Louise as a more prophetic figure, and her dream of an equal partnership between a man and a woman as more enduring than Reed's of world revolution….

“The word epic is tossed around a lot these days, usually for reasons having to do with extras clashing by night in travelog landscapes. Reds is an epic, but not for these reasons…. Beatty is less interested in spectacle than in the play of hope and disenchantment on his characters' faces….”

Molly HaskellVogue, date?

“…. Reds is a couple movie in which Beatty gives Diane Keaton the peacock part.... Keaton’s evolution as Louise Bryant becomes the emotional centerpiece of the film. From the struggles of a Portland dentist’s ex-wife to be taken seriously as a writer, to her dangerous trek across the wastes of Finland to find John Reed, it is Bryant’s journey that has the earmarks of heroism….

“O’Neill’s clash with Bryant over love and ideology is also a clash within the heroine, between the two sides of her nature. In a way, Nicholson’s O’Neill and Beatty’s Reed represent the opposing choices available to a woman: the old versus the new, the romantic versus the egalitarian. Bryant’s radical vision, more enduring, really, than John Reed’s, is of a truly equal working partnership between a man and a woman….”

HaskellPlaygirl, March 1982

 “Diane Keaton's Louise Bryant in Reds, Meryl Streep as The French Lieutenant's Woman, are glorious troublemakers who, though their challenges are removed to the safe distance of the past, speak to us with a voice made possible and resonant by feminism….”

HaskellPsychology Today, January 1983,
"Women in the Movies Grow Up" [left out too much?]

“…. The Keaton that Warren Beatty takes up with, and stars in Reds, is closer to the Keaton of Manhattan… or even Interiors: Louise Bryant less as the great beauty and heartbreaker than as a nervy--and nervous--bluestocking, desperate to break the mold and be taken seriously.

 “Beatty has the knowing eye of the womanizer, but he is one of those rare narcissists who actually looks at and listens to (or seems to) the women he deals with. The actresses he has gotten the most out of--Keaton, Julie Christie, Goldie Hawn--are those he took as he found them, not tampering with their personalities….”

HaskellVogue, February 1983 "Star Take" [get more RE Keaton in Manhattan?]

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Kenneth Turan in California identified a characteristic in Keaton's work which critics would sometimes comment upon about her later performances--that is, that she worked.

“…. [Beatty's is] a movie star's performance ..., demanding most of all someone who can effortlessly hold the center of attention every time he's in a room…

“For Louise Bryant--and for Diane Keaton, who plays her--life is more difficult. Bryant is Louise Bryant Trullinger at the film's opening,… vexed by the inherent contradiction of being the most progressive woman in Portland…. Though the film never makes clear exactly how much talent Bryant had, she chafes at her relative lack of success and hates herself for chafing…. Bryant is a complex character, driven, uncertain, simultaneously soft and brittle, and though Diane Keaton has to work much harder than Beatty, she handles things just fine. Hers is not a great performance, but it is a very successful, and it provides the ideal edgy counterpart to the easygoing grace that is Beatty's Reed.

“…. [Their's] is quite an appealing match. For all their tiffs and spats, there is a natural magnetism between Beatty and Keaton (they were an item, after all); we like seeing them together on the screen, and we are willing to put up with quite a bit for the sake of their more tender moments….”

Kenneth TuranCalifornia, January 1982
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Keaton was featured on the cover of Newsweek on February 15, 1982.

Entertainment editor Jack Kroll, a longtime Keaton admirer, wrote the story.

“…. This is the kind of self-inquisition, says Keaton, that she undergoes every time she takes on a new role. Then she proceeds to give performances of such increasing charm, strength and integrity that she's become just about the most magnetic movie actress of the moment….

“Giving flair, dignity, humor and pathos to personal uncertainty [in Annie Hall], Keaton became a star and an icon. Since then Keaton has grown tremendously as an actress…. With her two new films [Reds and Shoot the Moon] Keaton has now built a constituency as large as that of any American actress in years.

“Women seem to trust her instinct for the tricky truths of contemporary behavior. The meltdown of moral absolutes has opened the gate to ambiguity and ambivalence, and Keaton has these in her bones…. In Reds, as Louise Bryant…, Keaton movingly evokes the complex anguish of a woman who can't measure up to her own genuine vision of personal liberation. Keaton is superb as she fuses Louise's gallantry and shallowness in a richly human portrait.

“Like Meryl Streep, Keaton is a new kind of star--a star without ego. But while Streep keeps a cool, classic equipoise, Keaton shakes off sparks as she acts out a one-woman comedy/drama of insecurity, anxiety and diffidence…. Warren Beatty puts it in a way that relates both to her acting and her personality. "Diane has a great sense of the terror that a woman can feel who has an insecure identity. And she has a great sense of the comedic aspects of that terror." Above all, Keaton seems to have a terror of falsity. So she carefully constructs her characterizations out of exact observations and insights. She puts together her collages and her clothing with the same sense of dissonant details to form an organic whole. In this acceptance of contradictions in her work, in her openness to wildly antithetical types like Woody Allen and Warren Beatty in her personal life, Keaton epitomizes the edgy, eager mobility of so many American women….”

Jack KrollNewsweek, date? (cover story on Keaton)
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“…. For about two-thirds of its length I enjoyed it, so long as I didn't labor and identify the actors with the political behemians they were alleged to be representing. I have a feeling that John Reed was not as cute as Warren Beatty,…. and that Louise Bryant in no way resembled Diane Keaton. All the same, these actors were somebody plausible (until the Russian sequences, I mean!). What I was enjoying was a sex comedy…. (Their quarrel scenes were as good as Bergman's….)

“…. Diane Keaton is surely the best actress on the American screen; she has more nuances at her command than any director knows what to do with. Consequently, she always seems to be in some other film!”

Vernon YoungHudson Review?, 1982, p 324
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“In Reds, which is probably the most expensive and eagerly awaited of this year’s Christmas pictures, Diane Keaton gets to wear lots of billowy blouses, pin-striped suits, pouchy sweaters, and sleek leather boots. And her hats look as if they were bent on world domination—they’re huge, beret-like creatures that keep growing from one scene to the next, until they threaten to devour her whole head. The men are awfully fashionable too…. Like Annie Hall, this movie is a valentine to Diane Keaton--and also a Diane Keaton fashion show. The clothes don’t look quite appropriate to the era (1915-1920); they’re a mite too chic. But Reds gets by with them anyway, because so much of it is set in a sort of boho never-never land, an aestheticized world of radicals and dilettantes and poets… The fashions—like Richard Sylbert’s wonderfully detailed sets and Vittorio Storaro’s deep-hued photography—are part of the come-on, the sugar coating. How else are you going to get people to see a three-and-a-quarter-hour movie about left-wing intellectuals of the early 20th century?”
 “…. This movie needs a strong John Reed the way the bits of a collage need glue, and it doesn't have one. What it has is Diane Keaton. Her Louise is smart, sexy, and a bit of a poseur, an early proptoype of the flapper who likes to shock and yet wants to be taken seriously -- and can't see why the one should interfere with the other. Keaton has never been an actorish actress. Her technique may flag or even disappear, but she burbles along on an amateur's energy. It's a great approach to comedy, because she's so limpid you can see right through her; you get two incongruous performances at once, the inner one and the outer one. But in drama, Keaton's been pallid and strained. This is the first time she's harnessed that self-consciousness and vitality of hers to a dramatic role, and it works because Louise herself is a self-conscious amateur: a pretender with something real beneath the pretense. In Reds, Keaton looks bunny-cute on moment and ravaged and wrinkly the next, and when Reed is trapped in a Finnish prison and Louise decides to rescue him, her courage comes shooting out from beneath her flapper airs like fireworks.”

Stephen SchiffBoston Phoenix, Dec ? 1981
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"Reds is not the great opportunity for Keaton, though she and Beatty both won wide acclaim. Keaton's Annie Hall was most funny when her love relationships were most fragile, most troubled, and this quirk in her persona undercuts her fragile, troubled romance in Reds. There is always a trap in being perfectly cast in a unique part, as with Betty Bronson as Peter Pan or Bette Davis as Margo Channing; one keeps thinking that Keaton will say, 'La-di-da.'.... Keaton is a great preparer, and this care shows in the work. But it may be that Keaton was far better served by Shoot the Moon (1982), small and simple."

Ethan MorddenMovie Star: A Look at the Women Who Made Hollywood (1983), p. 274
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"Miss, Keaton, I know that public expressions like this can be embarrassing sometimes, and that my chances of speaking privately with you later are, at the moment, excellent. I do want to tell you that you make every director you work with look good, and I think that what they're trying to tell me here tonight, thank God, is that I'm no exception."

Warren Beatty, accepting the Academy Award for Best Director for Reds, 1982



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"I saw her {Louise] as the everyman of that piece, as somebody who really wanted to be extraordinary, but was probably more ordinary, except for the fact that she was driven. I knew what it was like not to really be an artist. I knew what it felt like to be extremely insecure. I knew what it was like to be envious."

Diane Keaton, interviewed by Peter Biskind, January 11, 2006, quoted in "Thunder on the Left: The Making of Reds", Vanity Fair, March 2006; and again by Biskind in Star: How Warren Beatty Seduced America, 2006, p. 287.



"The solitary year of shooting Reds in England was an emotional two steps back and no steps forward. I wasn't prepared for playing Louise Bryant, someone far less romantic than I'd imagined. She became my cross to bear. I didn't like her. There was nothing charming about her will to be recognized as an artist in her own right. Her pursuit of the magnetic revolutionary John Reed was suspect and, frankly, laced with envy. I hated her. It was a problem. Rather than face the challenge, I did what I usually do under pressure: I backpedaled....

"Everyone knew I didn't take well to Warren's direction. It was impossible to work with a perfectionist who shot forty takes per setup. Sometimes it felt like I was being stun-gunned. Even now I can't say my performance is my own. It was more like a reaction to Warren--that's what it was: a response to the effort of Warren Beatty.

"It took the tragic reunion of John Reed and Louise Bryant at the train station for me to find a sense of pride in playing such a provocative character. Warren waited through something like sixty-five excruiating close-ups before I finally broke through my self-imposed wall of defiance and let go of my judgment call on a woman I needed to love in order to play. Shooting the scene was an experience I couldn't have foreseen. Because of Warren's tenacity, suddenly against all odds, love came rushing through when Louise Bryant saw John Reed's face approaching hers at last. Reds was an epic with themes enriched by human ideals. John Reed sacrificed his life for his beliefs. But for me, it was imperfect love that was at the heart of Warren's movie."

Diane Keaton, Then Again (2011), p. 145-46.

Thursday, April 04, 2013

Diane Keaton

The solitary year of shooting Reds in England was an emotional two steps back and no steps forward. I wasn't prepared for playing Louise Bryant, someone far less romantic than I'd imagined. She became my cross to bear. I didn't like her. There was nothing charming about her will to be recognized as an artist in her own right. Her pursuit of the magnetic revolutionary John Reed was suspect and, frankly, laced with envy. I hated her. It was a problem. Rather than face the challenge, I did what I usually do under pressure: I backpedaled....

Everyone knew I didn't take well to Warren's direction. It was impossible to work with a perfectionist who shot forty takes per setup. Sometimes it felt like I was being stun-gunned. Even now I can't say my performance is my own. It was more like a reaction to Warren--that's what it was: a response to the effort of Warren Beatty.

It took the tragic reunion of John Reed and Louise Bryant at the train station for me to find a sense of pride in playing such a provocative character. Warren waited through something like sixty-five excrutiating close-ups before I finally broke through my self-imposed wall of defiance and let go of my judgment call on a woman I needed to love in order to play. Shooting the scene was an experience I couldn't have foreseen. Because of Warren's tenacity, suddenly against all odds, love came rushing through when Louise Bryant saw John Reed's face approaching hers at last. Reds was an epic with themes enriched by human ideals. John Reed sacrificed his life for his beliefs. But for me, it was imperfect love that was at the heart of Warren's movie.

Diane Keaton, Then Again (2011), p. 145-46.

Warren Beatty

Miss, Keaton, I know that public expressions like this can be embarrassing sometimes, and that my chances of speaking privately with you later are, at the moment, excellent. I do want to tell you that you make every director you work with look good, and I think that what they're trying to tell me here tonight, thank god, is that I'm no exception.

Warren Beatty, accepting the Academy Award for Best Director for Reds, 1982