Criterion Press Release: War and Peace (Blu-ray)

3 Stars
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At the height of the Cold War, the Soviet film industry set out to prove it could outdo Hollywood with a production that would dazzle the world: a titanic, awe-inspiring adaptation of Leo Tolstoy’s classic tome in which the fates of three souls—the blundering, good-hearted Pierre; the heroically tragic Prince Andrei; and the radiant, tempestuous Natasha—collide amid the tumult of the Napoleonic Wars. Employing a cast of thousands and an array of innovative camera techniques, director Sergei Bondarchuk conjures a sweeping vision of grand balls that glitter with rococo beauty and breathtaking battles that overwhelm with their expressionistic power. As a statement of Soviet cinema’s might, War and Peace succeeded wildly, garnering the Academy Award for best foreign-language film and setting a new standard for epic moviemaking.

FILM INFO

  • Sergei Bondarchuk
  • Soviet Union
  • 1966
  • 422 minutes
  • Color
  • 2.35:1
  • Russian, French
  • Spine #983SPECIAL FEATURES
    • New 2K digital restoration, with 5.1 surround DTS-HD Master Audio soundtrack on the Blu-ray
    • New interviews with cinematographer Anatoly Petritsky and filmmaker Fedor Bondarchuk, son of Sergei Bondarchuk
    • Two 1966 documentaries about the making of the film
    • Television program from 1967 profiling actor Ludmila Savelyeva, and featuring Sergei Bondarchuk
    • New program with historian Denise J. Youngblood (Bondarchuk’s “War and Peace”: Literary Classic to Soviet Cinematic Epic) detailing the cultural and historical contexts for the film
    • Janus rerelease trailer
    • New English subtitle translation
    • PLUS: An essay by critic Ella Taylor

    New cover by Gary Kelley

    June 25, 2019

Published by

Ronald Epstein

administrator

131 Comments

  1. Thank you for supporting HTF when you preorder using the link below. If you are using an adblocker you will not see link.

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  2. The $49.99 retail price is completely in line with their standard pricing. They usually price single disc releases at $39.99 and double disc sets at $49.99. Multi-title box sets usually go for $100 or more.

  3. Война и мир, trans. Voyna i mir
    Don't forget this was filmed in 70mm and they decided against Kodak for film stock due to costs and opted for their own manufacture. I assume the warlike opening is not there but rather the later passive fields one?

  4. Yes…. 7 hours. I saw it all in one day at AFI Silver about a decade ago. They had a very rare 70mm print of the Russian version (not the cut and dubbed version shown in its USA release in 1968). The spectacle really has no equal and should be seen on the big screen. Yes… there are lulls here and there, but trust me it is worth the effort. This is a remarkable film.

  5. And somewhat off topic———just what has happened to the American release of the restoration of Gance's NAPOLEON? I know the European version came out over a year ago and the US was supposed to come out last year. Anyone have any info on this?

  6. Ronald Epstein

    Is this worth a blind purchase? You know me…so many classics I still have not seen.

    I don't know Ron, you might get bored or disinterested with this seven hour film that you will definitely have to spread over some different sit downs.

  7. Robert Crawford

    I don't know Ron, you might get bored or disinterested with this seven hour film that you will definitely have to spread over some different sit downs.

    Well, one things for certain; it is far easier to view a war from multiple sits in our chairs than it is to be in the actual heat of battle.;)

    Wow, from "Bergman's Cinema" to "War and Peace", Criterion is killing it. And we haven't even reached the spring thaw, yet.:thumbs-up-smiley:

    It's funny how epic releases, such as these, has the opposite effects on us; for rather than our quietly disappearing into these seasonal satisfactions, it only inspires us to regenerate our Wish-LIst, post it and ask for more. Not so for me, though. I refuse. I am not greedy and therefore not a peep from me. Truly, I refuse to bother Criterion who has done so much. I will not burden them with my hopes for "The Circus", or "Bringing Up Baby", or "Ryan's Daughter", or "Sons and Lovers" nor the recent OCN 4K restoration of "It's a Wonderful Life". Nope, not me. I just wouldn't dream of asking any more from our good Criterion; insomuch as to suggest the release of Able Gance's "Napoleon". But other than that one single title, I refuse to post anything – and I mean anything – that has any semblance to a Wish-List, at all. It's just simply not my style.:roll:

  8. Jim*Tod

    Yes…. 7 hours. I saw it all in one day at AFI Silver about a decade ago.

    We were at that same screening. We had a lunch break as I remember. Not that I needed it. I was mesmerized through the whole event. SO much more material than in the '71 Walter Reade version. THIS is the release of the decade for me. Only Greed or Cabiria could come close (if there were a miracle). A true masterpiece. The uninitiated will not regret picking this up.

  9. PMF

    I just wouldn't dream of asking any more from our good Criterion; insomuch as to suggest the release of Able Gance's "Napoleon". 🙄

    Get the UK BFI Napoleon if you are region free. It's dazzling. Same with the French Lobster DeMille King of Kings.

  10. Ed Lachmann

    Get the UK BFI Napoleon if you are region free. It's dazzling. Same with the French Lobster DeMille King of Kings.

    Excellent leads, Ed. With a backlog of desired titles and my not making purchases until late spring, "Napoleon" from UK/BFI – and going Region-Free – is on the front burner. Guess I'll have to live with just the film, itself; as the 3-Disc deluxe set has ling been sold-out. The 2-Disc is, regretfully, without the Carl Davis supplement. As for the French Lobster transfer on "King of Kings", I sense that your recommendation suggests this disc to be superior to the already great looking American BD, to which I already own; so I'll add "King of Kings" to the list with great interests in seeing an even greater level of PQ.
    Criterion's "War and Peace" is an irresistible double-edge sword. No doubts, it's going to look great; but I, like so many of us, will always be wondering what we might have had were the 70mm print (or OCN) still feasible.

  11. PMF

    As for the French Lobster transfer on "King of Kings", I sense that your recommendation suggests this disc to be superior to the already great looking American BD, to which I already own.

    But this is not the Nicholas Ray epic from 1961, but rather the Cecil B. DeMille silent from 1927, which to my knowledge has never before released to Blu-ray, especially in this country.

  12. I don't know how many people here cross over to the blu-ray.com forums but when this movie came up there and it was announced as two BluRay's, there were concerns about compression.

    Here's what I chipped in.

    It would probably help to list the runtimes of the four Voyna i Mir films.

    (hours:minutes, just in case you weren't aware)

    Andrei Bolkonsky 2:27
    Natasha Rostova 1:40
    The Year 1812 1:24
    Pierre Bezukhov 1:40

    Splitting them onto two BluRay's gives us runtimes of 4:07 and 3:04.

  13. I will definitely be blind buying this. I read the novel 5 years ago and subsequently bought both the 1956 Hollywood version and the recent mini-series from a few years ago, but I have yet to watch either. Lazy me! But I will be trying harder to view this one right after I get it.

  14. Tommy R

    I will definitely be blind buying this. I read the novel 5 years ago and subsequently bought both the 1956 Hollywood version and the recent mini-series from a few years ago, but I have yet to watch either. Lazy me! But I will be trying harder to view this one right after I get it.

    If you're looking for a cinematic equivalent to Tolstoy's novel, the Sergey Bondarchuk is the one to watch.

  15. PMF

    As for the French Lobster transfer on "King of Kings", I sense that your recommendation suggests this disc to be superior to the already great looking American BD, to which I already own; so I'll add "King of Kings" to the list with great interests in seeing an even greater level of PQ.

    The French Lobster isn't the 1961 Nick Ray King of Kings but the Cecil B. DeMille 1927 King of Kings (Roi des Rois). I love the '61 one, too, and agree that it's a perfect transfer from WB.

  16. Ronald Epstein

    Is this worth a blind purchase? You know me…so many classics I still have not seen.

    Robert Crawford

    I don't know Ron, you might get bored or disinterested with this seven hour film that you will definitely have to spread over some different sit downs.

    For some, to commit to "War and Peace" as a single-day 7-hour theatrical viewing could understandably be daunting. I mean, you're stuck with the investment of the ticket and there's no turning back. But the greatness of viewing a 7-hour film at home changes the whole deal; or, as Robert had indicated, one can spread it out. And this approach, I feel, would make the "War and Peace" experience no less different than someone attempting to read the book, itself. After all, I have never met a single person who has been able to read Tolstoy's work from start to finish – in a single sit – let alone, in 7 collective hours. Really looking forward to this release.

  17. PMF

    For some, to commit to "War and Peace" as a single-day 7-hour theatrical viewing could understandably be daunting. I mean, you're stuck with the investment of the ticket and there's no turning back. .

    The film was not, of course, originally shown as a one day full-length presentation. It was presented in two parts which meant returning to the theater the following week to pay and see part 2.

  18. Douglas R

    The film was not, of course, originally shown as a one day full-length presentation. It was presented in two parts which meant returning to the theater the following week to pay and see part 2.

    I just had to throw this in (forgive me in advance)…

    “In Soviet Russia, War and Peace film watches you!”

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  20. john a hunter

    Tried to order it, but forgot Criterion does not ship overseas.
    Will have to wait and look for alternatives nearer launch date.
    Very short sighted.

    I'm not sure where you are you can try deepdiscount that has the pre-order up for $39.03 USD

  21. john a hunter

    Tried to order it, but forgot Criterion does not ship overseas.
    Will have to wait and look for alternatives nearer launch date.
    Very short sighted.

    Short-sightedness has nothing to do with it – but rights issues do. If Criterion had a licensing agreement to sell it in all territories, they'd be making the discs region free and shipping them everywhere. That's why we're stuck with this and this.

  22. OliverK

    War and Peace was orginally released one part at a time:

    • 14 March 1966 (Part I)
    • 20 July 1966 (Part II)
    • 21 July 1967 (Part III)
    • 4 November 1967 (Part IV)

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/War_and_Peace_(film_series)

    So when first released it was not intended to be seen in one day.

    Still I have seen it all in one day – and in 70mm – a few years ago. It was a rather monumental occasion!

    Fascinating and historical clarification, Oliver.
    So, in actuality, "War and Peace" was no differently designed than "Lord of the Rings" was for its theatrical runs of 3 plus hours per chapter. Or "The Godfather" trilogy, for that matter.
    So, once again, this is the beauty of home theater; as we get to decide and custom design our own program;
    and, if we so choose, we can make a marathon of it or opt to break it up.
    Still, if I knew of a theatrical showing of "War and Peace" within my region, I'd be game for the one day challenge.
    I must say, the Criterion price is colossally fair.:thumbs-up-smiley:

  23. john a hunter

    Tried to order it, but forgot Criterion does not ship overseas.
    Will have to wait and look for alternatives nearer launch date.
    Very short sighted.

    Amazon.com is accepting pre-orders.

  24. Brent Reid

    Short-sightedness has nothing to do with it – but rights issues do. If Criterion had a licensing agreement to sell it in all territories, they'd be making the discs region free and shipping them everywhere. That's why we're stuck with this and this.

    Well aware of the rights position and zoning Brent.
    However if TT can release 99.0% of their releases zoned world wide, I feel it is more lack of foresight or will on Criterion's part .Unfortunately we are stuck with it and every one looses out.

  25. Yes, Blu-ray region coding is a PITA. However, it is SO easy to circumvent. Buy a region-free player. They can be had for $100-$200 every day of the week. Problem solved, and you'll be a happier person with one less thing to stress about in your life. 🙂

  26. john a hunter

    But even with a multi zoned player, you still have some companies like the aforementioned Criterion, who will not send you the discs!!
    Problem not solved!

    Don't buy them directly from Criterion. Buy them from another retailer. Practically everyone carries them. Problem solved. 🙂

  27. About a year ago, the Australian government introduced new laws targeting overseas companies who up to then avoided paying tax down under. As a result many companies refuse to send anything here, including Amazon worldwide.
    So finding a replacement supplier has been problem but I'm pleased to say I have found one for W& P although it is not up yet for pre-order.
    Fingers crossed that nothing will change before release.
    Am really looking forward to this .
    A bight spot in an otherwise uninteresting release schedule.

  28. John Hunter are you in Australia? I am and I get US Amazon and DeepDiscount shipments as well as TT/SAE. DD have this up at $39 but if they have a 15% off sale it will bring it down soon, which I am waiting for.

  29. moviepas

    John Hunter are you in Australia? I am and I get US Amazon and DeepDiscount shipments as well as TT/SAE. DD have this up at $39 but if they have a 15% off sale it will bring it down soon, which I am waiting for.

    Thanks for the info.
    Am a few hours south of Sydney.
    Tried Amazon US just over a week ago but when checking out, the site said it could not ship to Australia.
    Also tried their UK site with the same result.
    You must have been lucky !!!!
    If you have a magic formula, please let me know;)

  30. I’m curious as to why it was only scanned at 2k and not 4k, given that it was shot in 70mm.

    Still, this is a really good disc to have. I have the DVD that was released several years ago and the film is quite good. The war scenes are really jaw-dropping in what was captured. I’ll definitely be picking this up.

  31. mBen989

    Source problems, I preseume.

    This was scanned from 35mm. Due to the film stock originally used for War and Peace and these being secondary materials at best one has to assume that a 2k scan captures all the detail that can be found in these elements.

  32. john a hunter

    Thanks for the info.
    Am a few hours south of Sydney.
    Tried Amazon US just over a week ago but when checking out, the site said it could not ship to Australia.
    Also tried their UK site with the same result.
    You must have been lucky !!!!
    If you have a magic formula, please let me know;)

    I'm also in Australia. Amazon US will ship if the items are sold by Amazon, They won't ship items from marketplace sellers. Amazon UK still has Australia shipments disabled.

    But, I have used shipito.com who provide a US address and re-box or relabel and send on to Australia many times now. Allowed me to buy from Criterion, Warner Archive, Kino and ClassicFlix when their sales come up.

  33. theog

    I'm also in Australia. Amazon US will ship if the items are sold by Amazon, They won't ship items from marketplace sellers. Amazon UK still has Australia shipments disabled.

    But, I have used shipito.com who provide a US address and re-box or relabel and send on to Australia many times now. Allowed me to buy from Criterion, Warner Archive, Kino and ClassicFlix when their sales come up.

    What are shipito's charges like? Then there's custome charges as well,

  34. samkydd

    What are shipito's charges like? Then there's custome charges as well,

    I start with accepting there are no *cheap* shipping option that skip paying the GST 🙂

    Add approximately 30% of the disc value for the combo of GST (10%) and shipping and handling fees. That is with a reasonably fast shipping option of week to 10 days with insurance. The ratio gets better the more discs you buy.

    One other option that only works for some titles is to order through amazon.com.au with Prime. Orders over $50 have free shipping on global items and when you factor in GST and exchange rate it can be less than ordering direct.

  35. theog

    I start with accepting there are no *cheap* shipping option that skip paying the GST 🙂

    Add approximately 30% of the disc value for the combo of GST (10%) and shipping and handling fees. That is with a reasonably fast shipping option of week to 10 days with insurance. The ratio gets better the more discs you buy.

    One other option that only works for some titles is to order through amazon.com.au with Prime. Orders over $50 have free shipping on global items and when you factor in GST and exchange rate it can be less than ordering direct.

    Thank you for the advice.

  36. May we get this straight, please? Scanned from 35mm but shot in actual 70mm? Yes? No? Well, yes, but the 70mm reels apparently are so damaged as to be unusable. But the 35mm element was, according to what I've read, 4.3. So, what exactly is this restoration from? Did the 70mm reels suddenly become usable? Was there a 35mm scope negative created from the original 70mm?

  37. haineshisway

    May we get this straight, please? Scanned from 35mm but shot in actual 70mm? Yes? No? Well, yes, but the 70mm reels apparently are so damaged as to be unusable. But the 35mm element was, according to what I've read, 4.3. So, what exactly is this restoration from? Did the 70mm reels suddenly become usable? Was there a 35mm scope negative created from the original 70mm?

    The DVD Beaver review is up and the Blu-ray is in Scope:
    http://www.dvdbeaver.com/film/DVDCompare/warandpeace.htm
    I know you are not a fan of caps in general but they should be quite useful for checking aspect ratio and framing 😉

    The following paragraph is comment on how the caps look on my calibrated TV so those who do not believe in caps may skip this:
    Clearly the detail is not at the level of even western 35mm productions but it is a huge upgrade over the previous DVD's.
    Colors and contrasts are quite variable and may often seem a bit disappointing but this is probably accurate as it was the same with the two 70mm prints that I saw and I am pretty sure that Criterion / Janus did not think it was right to make this look a lot more pleasing than it originally did. The director would have liked it to look better by the way but couldn't achieve that with the available Soviet film stock.

    Edit: atcolomb beat me to it 🙂

  38. You know I think Gary already has a place in hell for all his "pulled out of his ass" technojargon Tooze-ism bullcrap, but this new Zavitz guy is now really starting to tick me off by straining to find a teal bias where there isn't one.

  39. Lord Dalek

    You know I think Gary already has a place in hell for all his "pulled out of his ass" technojargon Tooze-ism bullcrap, but this new Zavitz guy is now really starting to tick me off by straining to find a teal bias where there isn't one.

    Well he explicitly writes that isn't the case so you seem to strain to find a fault with what he writes especially when the conclusion of the review is very positive 😉

  40. OliverK

    Well he explicitly writes that isn't the case so you seem to strain to find a fault with what he writes especially when the conclusion of the review is very positive 😉

    It may be "positive" but he ALWAYS mentions a "teal" push or bias when there isn't one. It's completely irritating. And of course the techno-jargon referred to is malapropism at its finest.

  41. haineshisway

    It may be "positive" but he ALWAYS mentions a "teal" push or bias when there isn't one. It's completely irritating. And of course the techno-jargon referred to is malapropism at its finest.

    After peeking into a few of his reviews I will say that what he writes about the technical side of a Blu-ray does not do much for me so this is another writer whose reviews on disc quality I will skip. I will say that he picked a few rather weird movies recently that piqued my interest so I will give him that.

  42. john a hunter

    Thanks for the info.
    Am a few hours south of Sydney.
    Tried Amazon US just over a week ago but when checking out, the site said it could not ship to Australia.
    Also tried their UK site with the same result.
    You must have been lucky !!!!
    If you have a magic formula, please let me know;)

    John, I only just read this post from you from a few weeks ago.

    Amazon (US only) has been shipping into Australia again for some months now, but only for items that it carries itself. It will not send fulfillment items or 3rd party marketplace items.

    Unfortunately, none of the other international Amazon outlets ship into Oz yet, which is a real pain, as I bought a lot of product from UK, Germany and France. The UK situation isn’t too bad, as Zavvi carries most lines, and the studios themselves provide decent online stores that ship anywhere.

  43. Thanks for your reply above Ramin.I was able eventually to order W&P from Amazon US.
    They still have a problem with some "third party"orders though as you say.That makes getting some older titles difficult,

  44. Lord Dalek

    You know I think Gary already has a place in hell for all his "pulled out of his ass" technojargon Tooze-ism bullcrap

    You must have hated this Tooze.

    Why don’t you forget the Tooze for a moment?

    (Arthur – with typos)

  45. As a promotion for the release of her 2014 book, this 34 page.pdf was released, describing the production history and critical reception of Russia’s WAR AND PEACE.

    https://history.osu.edu/sites/history.osu.edu/files/Youngblood-A-Weapon-in-the-Cold-War-rev.pdf

    ——————————————————————————————–

    This paper is adapted from my forthcoming book, Bondarchuk’s War and Peace: Literary
    Classic to Soviet Cinematic Epic (University Press of Kansas, 2014).

    A Weapon in the Cold War: Sergei Bondarchuk’s War and Peace
    Denise J. Youngblood, University of Vermont, USA

    In 1959 American director King Vidor’s 1956 adaptation of War and Peace,
    starring Henry Fonda, Audrey Hepburn (a favorite with Soviet audiences), and Mel
    Ferrer, was released in the USSR. It was one of a wave of American films imported
    following a US-Soviet cultural exchange agreement in 1958. Although some Soviet
    critics have claimed that the film was not well received by Soviet audiences, 31.4 million
    spectators bought tickets, putting it in second place for foreign films and tenth place
    overall, belying those claims. Surprisingly, it was the only adaptation of Tolstoy’s
    masterwork in the past forty-one years.

    Genesis

    After the release of Vidor’s film in the Soviet Union, sentiments began to grow that it
    needed to be “answered” with a bigger and better epic. In the opinion of Russian film
    scholar Fyodor Razzakov, Vidor’s War and Peace was a weapon in the Cold War,
    intended to show that the United States was richer than the USSR. These rumblings
    increased in 1961 as the 150th anniversary of Napoleon’s invasion approached and plans
    were made to open the Museum-Panorama “Battle of Borodino” on Kutuzov Avenue in Moscow.

    There can be little doubt, however, that the primary impetus for a Soviet War and
    Peace was the cultural Cold War. Some Soviet citizens were outraged that “their”
    masterpiece had been appropriated by the Americans, who presented merely a facsimile
    of Russian culture. In February 1961 the Central Committee of the Communist Party
    received a letter from scientists, cultural figures, and military officers complaining that an
    “American” War and Peace had appeared on Russian screens. Shortly thereafter a group
    of leading cinematographers also wrote a letter demanding a Soviet War and Peace,
    stating: “As is well known, the American film, based on this novel, communicated
    neither the artistic nor the national aspects of Tolstoy’s epic, nor the great, liberating
    spirit of the Russian people.” Bondarchuk himself wrote letters to friends and
    colleagues: “Why is it that this novel, the pride of Russian national character, was
    adapted in America and released in their cinema halls? And we ourselves are not able to
    adapt it? It’s a disgrace to the entire world!” The Central Committee took these
    complaints seriously and turned the project over to the minister of culture, Yekaterina
    Furtseva. The film was going to be a goszakaz, a state ordered picture that guaranteed
    good distribution and lots of prestige.

    ——————————————————————————————–

  46. Lord Dalek

    Technical documentation that supports that claim please.

    Not a claim but fact. Still documentation is pretty hard to come by, I will see if I can find somthing that goes into a bit more depth.

  47. Regarding Socscope 70 strangely enough not much comes up, only a few passing paragraphs here and there that mention the 70mm wide negative:

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Todd-AO
    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_70_mm_films

    With the number of films shot in the format ( a lot more than all the Western 65mm formats from that ime taken together) one would think that it is easy to find more information about Sovscope 70 but there is not that much of it around.

  48. As Oliver says, there is not that much info around on Soviet 70mm.
    However you can start at pages 198-199 in Michael Z Wysotsky's book "Wide screen Cinema and stereophonic sound".
    This was the first book on the subject published in the late 60's.

  49. OliverK

    Regarding Socscope 70 strangely enough not much comes up, only a few passing paragraphs here and there that mention the 70mm wide negative:

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Todd-AO
    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_70_mm_films

    With the number of films shot in the format ( a lot more than all the Western 65mm formats from that ime taken together) one would think that it is easy to find more information about Sovscope 70 but there is not that much of it around.

    In70mm has some information:

    https://www.in70mm.com/news/2010/sovscope/index.htm

  50. john a hunter

    As Oliver says, there is not that much info around on Soviet 70mm.
    However you can start at pages 198-199 in Michael Z Wysotsky's book "Wide screen Cinema and stereophonic sound".
    This was the first book on the subject published in the late 60's.

    I think that I have at least one book that discusses the process but I would have to look it up to see into how much detail it goes.
    Oh well, it is not as if this disc would go back to a scan from the 70mm elements, just good old 35mm…

  51. Quiet a lot detail Oliver as the book is from a Russian text.
    It was the first book released covering wide screen systems with the emphasis on Russian cinema.
    As Russia had to build their cameras from scratch,unlike the US who could adapt cameras from the late 20's, they could use 70 stock both for filming and projection.
    That's my guess anyway!

  52. I just saw the release at The Castro Theatre and it looks and sounds amazing!! There are a few spots that are clearly the “best we can do”, but overall it looked phenomenal. I think everyone will be blown away by this release.

  53. john a hunter

    Quiet a lot detail Oliver as the book is from a Russian text.
    It was the first book released covering wide screen systems with the emphasis on Russian cinema.
    As Russia had to build their cameras from scratch,unlike the US who could adapt cameras from the late 20's, they could use 70 stock both for filming and projection.
    That's my guess anyway!

    Ah, then that's not the book that I have, mine is from a Western author.

    Yes I guess they just found it a bit more logical to have the same width for negatives and prints. It has worked very well for good old 35mm 🙂

  54. owen35

    I just saw the release at The Castro Theatre and it looks and sounds amazing!! There are a few spots that are clearly the “best we can do”, but overall it looked phenomenal. I think everyone will be blown away by this release.

    Happy to hear that, was it all shown in one day?

  55. I saw the first two chapters of the recent Mosfilm restoration at the Walter Reade theater (in a DCP from Janus) on Friday. What I was most impressed with is that they somehow managed to keep all the many double exposures dirt and wear free. Though the color quality is a bit erratic, my memory is that it was always this way, for there are all kinds of weird experimental things going on–lots of Vaseline shots and swirly psychedelia intruding into balls and battle scenes. When things are left alone, such as in the ballroom scene in the beginning of Chapter 2, the color and depth of field are spectacular. The film is way better than I remember. Not only spectacular, but deeply personal and compulsively watchable. Stylistically, it's a cross between Kubrick's 2001 & BARRY LYNDON, except unlike Kubrick, with characters one becomes deeply involved with. I wasn't going to buy the Criterion since I'm seeing the film this week, but now I want to see it again!

  56. john a hunter

    Was there a decent audience when you saw it Mark?

    It wasn't sold out, but it was decent. I believe the Walter Reade seats 350 so there were around 150 for the first chapter, mostly little old Russian ladies munching popcorn. The second chapter had more, say 250-300, and there were a lot more young people, I think mostly Julliard students. I always go in the afternoon, when there's less people. Also I get a senior discount, which doesn't hurt. But if you see all four chapters, there's already a series discount @ $25, $20 for seniors.

  57. OliverK

    Happy to hear that, was it all shown in one day?

    It was. Started at 1:00 pm and we didn't finish until 9: 15 (several 10 minutes breaks and 30 minutes for dinner). The place was packed and there was a line down the street to get into the theater 1 hour before the show even started. Big applause at the end.

    I watched the DVD several years ago and this was longer than that release. Suffice it to say, that the battle scenes have to be seen on the big screen. They are really mind-boggling epic. Thousands of people laid out across this huge canvas; words cannot do it justice. As for the film itself, there was a lot of watch glancing during the last 45 minutes. But, overall, the audience really enjoyed it, and despite its running time, the time flew by. So glad I did it. And, again, the quality of the print is stunning! It's not Lawrence of Arabia restoration quality, but far better than I could have ever imagined. The sound was sharp and robust. This will be a worthwhile purchase.

  58. owen35

    It was. Started at 1:00 pm and we didn't finish until 9: 15 (several 10 minutes breaks and 30 minutes for dinner). The place was packed and there was a line down the street to get into the theater 1 hour before the show even started. Big applause at the end.

    I watched the DVD several years ago and this was longer than that release. Suffice it to say, that the battle scenes have to be seen on the big screen. They are really mind-boggling epic. Thousands of people laid out across this huge canvas; words cannot do it justice. As for the film itself, there was a lot of watch glancing during the last 45 minutes. But, overall, the audience really enjoyed it, and despite its running time, the time flew by. So glad I did it. And, again, the quality of the print is stunning! It's not Lawrence of Arabia restoration quality, but far better than I could have ever imagined. The sound was sharp and robust. This will be a worthwhile purchase.

    Sounds like my forst time watching all of it in 70mm. I think it went from 10:00 AM to 6:30 PM with breaks between the individual parts. Very happy that you felt the quality held up on a big screen and looking forward to my Criterion set!

  59. Robert Harris

    The release looks nothing akin to large format. It also hasn’t aged well. No idea what befell the original elements, which is a pity.

    I have read from other posts & websites that Mosfilm did not take great care of their film negatives?

  60. Robert Harris

    The release looks nothing akin to large format. It also hasn’t aged well. No idea what befell the original elements, which is a pity.

    In my experience Russian 70mm unfortunately was not on the same level of detail and clarity as Western titles originating from a 65mm negative which is a shame given that many of these movies are held in high regard by film critics and film historians.

    From what I have seen across a number of Russian productions the quality did not even compare favorably with very good 35mm Blow-Ups like for example Guns for San Sebastian or The Wild Bunch to name two titles with exceptional detail in daylight scenes.

  61. I remember seeing The Story Of the Flaming Years in 70mm in NFT1 on the Southbank in the late 70s
    and as Oliver says the Russian 70mm did not have the same level of detail as the rest.

  62. DP 70

    I remember seeing The Story Of the Flaming Years in 70mm in NFT1 on the Southbank in the late 70s
    and as Oliver says the Russian 70mm did not have the same level of detail as Western titles from 65mm.
    I am sure they called it Kinopanorama.

    I saw that one , too and it was not on the same level as War and Peace, in fact it was the first Russian 70mm production that I had seen at the time and I was quite disappointed with the picture quality.

    If you compare it to a 70mm print of for example Solomon and Sheba which is not critically acclaimed but very good looking the difference is quite staggering and Solomon and Sheba is "only" a Super Technirama 70 production.

  63. Just got the blu ray. I am somewhat disappointed by the sound. I saw the uncut 70mm print in Russian at AFI about a decade ago and the sound was incredible with lots of use of the surrounds, even for dialog. This was even true of the Russico dvd. The sound on this new blu ray is OK but it does not have the expansive sound stage I have heard in the past. Curious to see what other folks think of this.

  64. Jim*Tod

    Just got the blu ray. I am somewhat disappointed by the sound. I saw the uncut 70mm print in Russian at AFI about a decade ago and the sound was incredible with lots of use of the surrounds, even for dialog. This was even true of the Russico dvd. The sound on this new blu ray is OK but it does not have the expansive sound stage I have heard in the past. Curious to see what other folks think of this.

    I saw the Janus/Mosfilm DCP (which I assume is the same as the Criterion Blu-Ray) last month @ Lincoln Center's Walter Reade Theater and I thought the information coming out of the surrounds was fairly amazing. In the ballroom & battle scenes there were all kinds of echo effects and doubling of voices and specific sounds which panned from one speaker to the other and created a kind of hyper near visionary experience. I also sat in different parts of the theater to sample the sound mix and surprisingly the best was up in front.

    I can't give you my views on the Blu-Ray as I haven't received it yet, but one would think that it would sound the same as the Janus DCP. That's very odd if it is indeed different.

  65. In the 70mm print not only were there more spectacular effects for the big battle sequences, but it is one of the few times where an off camera voice comes from behind until the character enters the frame and his dialog is in the front. I only sampled the disc last night… so once I have a chance to watch the whole thing, I will see how it goes. But definitely want to hear the opinions of others on the sound quality.

  66. The Story of the Flaming Years had a run at the Coliseum Cinerama in London which I saw together with Part 1 of W&P at the Kinopanorama in Paris.
    I can recall the impact of those films(especially W&P) but like Oliver says the image quality was quite soft and did not make an impression on me, as say the first time I saw the PQ of Cleopatra or Dolly.
    Looking forward to the BD's though.

  67. Jim*Tod

    In the 70mm print not only were there more spectacular effects for the big battle sequences, but it is one of the few times where an off camera voice comes from behind until the character enters the frame and his dialog is in the front. I only sampled the disc last night… so once I have a chance to watch the whole thing, I will see how it goes. But definitely want to hear the opinions of others on the sound quality.

    Yeah, the off-camera voices were definitely there on the rear and also side surrounds (it happens a number of times in the film) on the Janus DCP I saw last month at the Walter Reade.

  68. Robert Harris

    The release looks nothing akin to large format. It also hasn’t aged well. No idea what befell the original elements, which is a pity.

    From the Digital Bits that recently reviewed it. I'm not sure where he got this information (may be on the disc which I just received today):

    "War and Peace was shot photochemically in actual 70 mm (at 2.20:1) using Soviet-made cameras and film stock (specifically, “Sovscope 70” film from the Shostka Chemical Plant in Ukraine, also used by Akira Kurosawa for Dersu Uzala in 1975). Unfortunately, the cameras had a tendency to break down and parts were hard to come by. What’s more, the film stock was of inconsistent quality (at various points during filming, the camera crew discovered batches with striping, mosquitoes in the emulsion, even missing sprocket holes). Worst of all, the stock was unstable and deteriorated quickly, the upshot of which is that War and Peace was nearly lost. When, in 2000, Mosfilm decided to undertake a restoration of the film, they discovered that they essentially no longer had the original 70 mm negative. So for nearly two decades, War and Peace has only been viewable in poor quality DVD releases. Entire generations of filmgoers have thus never seen it—many don’t even know of its existence. Thankfully, that’s about to change."

    Seems the 70mm negative was gone so they had to pull from various sources. There were moments, to my unprofessional eye, that it looked fantastic, but, yes, there were also moments where it was very bad. One section was in black-and-white for about a minute or more. Perhaps that was intentional, but given that it didn't enhance the scene and was the only moment in the entire film that was done this way, I assumed it was because a color version didn't exist.

  69. "One section was in black-and-white for about a minute or more. Perhaps that was intentional, but given that it didn't enhance the scene and was the only moment in the entire film that was done this way, I assumed it was because a color version didn't exist."

    If that B&W moment occurred in the fourth film, during the attack on the French camp by Denisov and young Rostov, then it is the same as in the the 5-disc DVD set released by Image Entertainment.

    View attachment 59995

  70. Mark McSherry

    "One section was in black-and-white for about a minute or more. Perhaps that was intentional, but given that it didn't enhance the scene and was the only moment in the entire film that was done this way, I assumed it was because a color version didn't exist."

    If that B&W moment occurred in the fourth film, during the attack on the French camp by Dennisov and young Rostov, then it is the same as in the the 5-disc DVD set released by Image Entertainment.

    View attachment 59995

    It did.

  71. owen35

    From the Digital Bits that recently reviewed it. I'm not sure where he got this information (may be on the disc which I just received today):

    "War and Peace was shot photochemically in actual 70 mm (at 2.20:1) using Soviet-made cameras and film stock (specifically, “Sovscope 70” film from the Shostka Chemical Plant in Ukraine, also used by Akira Kurosawa for Dersu Uzala in 1975). Unfortunately, the cameras had a tendency to break down and parts were hard to come by. What’s more, the film stock was of inconsistent quality (at various points during filming, the camera crew discovered batches with striping, mosquitoes in the emulsion, even missing sprocket holes). Worst of all, the stock was unstable and deteriorated quickly, the upshot of which is that War and Peace was nearly lost. When, in 2000, Mosfilm decided to undertake a restoration of the film, they discovered that they essentially no longer had the original 70 mm negative. So for nearly two decades, War and Peace has only been viewable in poor quality DVD releases. Entire generations of filmgoers have thus never seen it—many don’t even know of its existence. Thankfully, that’s about to change."

    Seems the 70mm negative was gone so they had to pull from various sources. There were moments, to my unprofessional eye, that it looked fantastic, but, yes, there were also moments where it was very bad. One section was in black-and-white for about a minute or more. Perhaps that was intentional, but given that it didn't enhance the scene and was the only moment in the entire film that was done this way, I assumed it was because a color version didn't exist.

    I seem to remember a story I'd read where the 70mm negatives were caught in a legal morass following Bondarchuk's death, and Mosfilm couldn't get them out of Ukraine, IIRC.

  72. Robert Harris

    Unfortunately, another poster child for the multiple failures of proper preservation, archival standards, and cooperation.

    This is indeed tragic and for years only rumors have been heard about the state of the OCN.
    In any case it would be a monumental undertaking and I doubt that Mosfilm would be up to it even if they had access.

  73. I see the glass half full rather than half empty in the case of WAR AND PEACE. Rather than concentrate on a perfect restoration that will never happen, lets be thankful we have an improved WAR AND PEACE..

  74. trajan007

    I see the glass half full rather than half empty in the case of WAR AND PEACE. Rather than concentrate on a perfect restoration that will never happen, lets be thankful we have an improved WAR AND PEACE..

    A 3.6 Restoration. Not great, not terrible.

  75. The version I saw in 70mm at the AFI Silver in Silver Springs, MD some years ago had Entr'acte music prior to the second half (parts three and four of the disc). I remember this clearly because it was played with the curtains open and there were lots of scratches in the print. What's happened to this music – and what's the status of any surviving 70mm prints of this movie? (I see that the AFI's showing the 2K version from July 5-7). (Just the bits and pieces I've seen so far show me that this Blu-Ray is FAR better than the completely unwatchable DVD. Too bad that something couldn't have been done to make it look better.)
    (I came upon this – with some minimal searching. Last 70mm showing at AFI in 2004!:
    https://rec.arts.movies.tech.narkive.com/52BHByVn/70mm-print-of-bondarchuk-s-war-and-peace )

  76. Dersu Uzala was in bad shape so currently in Criterion's hands they can improve the image. In 2001 Ruscico released a dvd that had the worst shimmering effect I ever saw and was not watchable.

  77. I have just been informed (by someone who works there) that Barnes and Noble will have their annual 50% off sale beginning JUNE 28 and ending the first week in August. Just a heads up.

  78. trajan007

    I see the glass half full rather than half empty in the case of WAR AND PEACE. Rather than concentrate on a perfect restoration that will never happen, lets be thankful we have an improved WAR AND PEACE..

    Indeed things could be much worse. There are Blu-rays that look worse that come from movies that originally looked a lot better than War and Peace.

    The Greatest Story Ever Told, The Halleluja Trail or El Cid come to mind.

  79. One question I do have is, I know it’s 2.35 because they used 35 mm elements, but I am watching the special feature interviewing Fedor Bondarchuk, and the footage is framed at 2.20 the correct aspect ratio and the footage looks better. I know the original 65mm negative is a lost cause, but what am I seeing in that special feature?

  80. I am on the second disc and while watching it I am reminded of films like Napoleon, The Leopard, and Parajanov’s Shadows of our Forgotten Ancestors. Very good film with some of the best war scenes I have ever seen. Like the scene in one of the documentaries where the director is holding one big roll of the 70mm film.

  81. Cranston37

    War and Peace is now streaming on the Criterion Channel if anyone is unsure about a purchase…

    THANK YOU for this information. I will probably start streaming this today and watch it over the next few days. I really didn't want to spend the money on the 2-disc set.

  82. I am watching the first disc now, and am getting into the first “war” section. I saw this movie theatrically in the North American cut 100 years ago. I can see why it was cut. Some sequences here are slooooow indeed. I am pressing through with a strong cup of coffee at my side.

  83. I just finished watching the film a few days ago after receiving the Blu-ray as a birthday present, and while there are definitely a few slow parts, I managed to get through it just fine, probably because I was too blown away by the production aspects, especially the cinematography, to let them bother me.

  84. What I liked most about the film (which is also the reason I've watched it twice since getting it) is how Tolstoy's ideas about human destiny and nature is expressed through the visual and sound design, which is also embedded within the character arcs. And of course, the characters themselves! I hesitate to say performances as it doesn't seem like acting, but simply being.

  85. atcolomb

    There were some slow parts of the movie but liked seeing the outfits and the set decorations which were very lavish.

    I read War and Peace a few years ago. I had read it in high school, but it was a horribly abridged version. The most recent one I read was the Richard Pevear and Larissa Volokhonsky translation. I had been watching the Image DVD version of the film one day, and thought it odd that the story just sort of sneaks up, without a pronounced "our story begins" type of start (unlike the American version from the 50s). I wondered if the book was that way. It was actually more so. Characters are introduced right away, and some appear to be major characters and turn out not to be.

    One thing I do think is that anyone thinking of reading the book should see the Russian film version first. Unless one is extraordinarily familiar with the period, it will be difficult to know what you are supposed to be seeing in the novel's descriptions. The design and execution of the Russian War and Peace is jaw-dropping in almost every scene. The battle scenes are obviously impressive. There are shots of the armies that stretch for at least half a mile or more. But there are tons of details elsewhere that one can overlook while getting caught up in the story. Look at the breath vapor when the horses are snorting during Nikolai's sleigh journey home and during Pierre's duel, the entrance in the freezing cold of the Rostov family at the ball, and their progression up the stairs and into the ballroom. Look at the hair styles of Prince Andrei and Anatole, in which they brush the hair forward and sort of pile it on top of their heads. These are all details that could be missed while reading the novel.

    For those who are interested, I recommend watching the movie, then reading the unabridged novel, then seeing the movie again to appreciate how well they translated the written page to the screen. There are many fascinating details in the novel that are not onscreen. Princess Maria gets pretty short shrift in all movie versions, and she was one of the more interesting characters in the novel. It also would not hurt for one to read at least a Wikipedia article on the Austerlitz and 1812 campaigns. A dramatic moment in the film is when the Austrian General Mack presents himself to General Kutuzov as "the unfortunate General Mack". This refers to Napoleon's famous Maneuver of Ulm, in which his army surrounded and trapped an entire Austrian army under Mack. It would have struck the Russians like a thunderbolt to learn that an allied army was lost to the campaign.

    The only part of the film (and novel) that are kind of slow to me is after the fire of Moscow when the French begin their retreat and Pierre is one of the prisoners. However, I would not cut anything from the film. I don't think its length is a problem, and I usually watch it as four films as originally released. It kind of reminds me of Barry Lyndon in that the recreation of an entire world down to minute details occupies my eye and mind throughout its length.

  86. atcolomb

    There were some slow parts of the movie but liked seeing the outfits and the set decorations which were very lavish.

    I read War and Peace a few years ago. I had read it in high school, but it was a horribly abridged version. The most recent one I read was the Richard Pevear and Larissa Volokhonsky translation. I had been watching the Image DVD version of the film one day, and thought it odd that the story just sort of sneaks up, without a pronounced "our story begins" type of start (unlike the American version from the 50s). I wondered if the book was that way. It was actually more so. Characters are introduced right away, and some appear to be major characters and turn out not to be.

    One thing I do think is that anyone thinking of reading the book should see the Russian film version first. Unless one is extraordinarily familiar with the period, it will be difficult to know what you are supposed to be seeing in the novel's descriptions. The design and execution of the Russian War and Peace is jaw-dropping in almost every scene. The battle scenes are obviously impressive. There are shots of the armies that stretch for at least half a mile or more. But there are tons of details elsewhere that one can overlook while getting caught up in the story. Look at the breath vapor when the horses are snorting during Nikolai's sleigh journey home and during Pierre's duel, the entrance in the freezing cold of the Rostov family at the ball, and their progression up the stairs and into the ballroom. Look at the hair styles of Prince Andrei and Anatole, in which they brush the hair forward and sort of pile it on top of their heads. These are all details that could be missed while reading the novel.

    For those who are interested, I recommend watching the movie, then reading the unabridged novel, then seeing the movie again to appreciate how well they translated the written page to the screen. There are many fascinating details in the novel that are not onscreen. Princess Maria gets pretty short shrift in all movie versions, and she was one of the more interesting characters in the novel. It also would not hurt for one to read at least a Wikipedia article on the Austerlitz and 1812 campaigns. A dramatic moment in the film is when the Austrian General Mack presents himself to General Kutuzov as "the unfortunate General Mack". This refers to Napoleon's famous Maneuver of Ulm, in which his army surrounded and trapped an entire Austrian army under Mack. It would have struck the Russians like a thunderbolt to learn that an allied army was lost to the campaign.

    The only part of the film (and novel) that are kind of slow to me is after the fire of Moscow when the French begin their retreat and Pierre is one of the prisoners. However, I would not cut anything from the film. I don't think its length is a problem, and I usually watch it as four films as originally released. It kind of reminds me of Barry Lyndon in that the recreation of an entire world down to minute details occupies my eye and mind throughout its length.

  87. David_B_K

    It kind of reminds me of Barry Lyndon in that the recreation of an entire world down to minute details occupies my eye and mind throughout its length.

    It's interesting you should mention Kubrick, as this time through (I first saw the film in 70mm at the DeMille in 68 or 69, going for the all day option with a dinner break) what the film made me think of more than anything else is a stylistic amalgam of 2001 & BARRY LYNDON. I mention 2001 in particular, as a lot of WAR AND PEACE is really trippy (for instance the opening credits with the camera floating upward from the roots of grasses and trees, or the scene at the Opera from Natasha's POV when one isn't certain if this is dream or a memory) but all these weird experiments in sight and sound are allied to a rigorously moving camera, magisterial and God-like, which appears to be the representation of Tolstoy's authorial voice. So yes, very detailed in terms of period and character/class based fashion while at the same time the technical & aesthetic aspect of the images transcending all this human frailty that one is witnessing. Now I'm not suggesting Kubrick copied WAR AND PEACE, but I find it interesting how the two directors chose similar approaches. And yes, the Princess Maria is a fascinating and very important character in the novel, and in the film, one only gets brief glimpses of her inner turmoil through facial expressions. I think this is the one of the few cases where one can fault the film in terms of the adaption from novel to film.

  88. But if you follow Princess Mary, you need to spend more time with Natasha's brother, Nicholas. Which I wish they had. I could easily watch an additional hour of the movie, if this would have been done. Then we would have gotten that hilarious bit from the novel—

    Nicholas had helped Princess Mary escape the French prior to the Battle of Borodino. Later, Nicholas Rostov is sent to Voronezh (300 miles south of Moscow) to requisition horses for the army. Arriving, Nicholas is invited to the local governor's house that first night to attend the weekly social gathering. And Nicholas is in the highest of spirits.

    From Tolstoy, Leo. War and Peace (Maude Translation), Kindle Edition.

    Nicholas sat leaning slightly forward in an armchair, bending closely over the blonde lady and paying her mythological compliments with a smile that never left his face.

    Jauntily shifting the position of his legs in their tight riding breeches, diffusing an odor of perfume, and admiring his partner, himself, and the fine outlines of his legs in their well-fitting Hessian boots, Nicholas told the blonde lady that he wished to run away with a certain lady here in Voronezh.

    "Which lady?"

    "A charming lady, a divine one. Her eyes" (Nicholas looked at his partner) "are blue, her mouth coral and ivory; her figure" (he glanced at her shoulders) "like Diana's… ."

    The husband came up and sullenly asked his wife what she was talking about.

    "Ah, Nikita Ivanych!" cried Nicholas, rising politely, and as if wishing Nikita Ivanych to share his joke, he began to tell him of his intention to elope with a blonde lady.

    The husband smiled gloomily, the wife gaily. The governor's good-natured wife came up with a look of disapproval.

    "Anna Ignatyevna wants to see you, Nicholas," said she, pronouncing the name so that Nicholas at once understood that Anna Ignatyevna was a very important person. "Come, Nicholas! You know you let me call you so?"

    "Oh, yes, Aunt. Who is she?"

    "Anna Ignatyevna Malvintseva. She has heard from her niece how you rescued her… Can you guess?"

    "I rescued such a lot of them!" said Nicholas.

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