A Peerless ‘War and Peace’ Film Is Restored to Its Former Glory

Discussion in 'Visual Arts' started by JozefK, Mar 12, 2019.

  1. JozefK

    JozefK Forum Resident Thread Starter

    Location:
    Dixie
    A Peerless ‘War and Peace’ Film Is Restored to Its Former Glory

    It is no exaggeration to say that Sergei Bondarchuk’s 1960s adaptation of the Leo Tolstoy novel “War and Peace” is a singular feat of filmmaking that can never be repeated.

    If it were, a director would have to match the resources at Bondarchuk’s disposal — a virtually unlimited budget, props from Russia’s great museums, thousands of extras from the Soviet army — and engineer sprawling battle sequences using no computer-generated effects.

    The extraordinary support behind “War and Peace” is apparent in every lavish frame of its seven-plus hours, and it is staggering to witness — even more so in the new, meticulously assembled digital restoration opening Friday at Film Society of Lincoln Center...There’s a reason Lincoln Center is showing it only in Walter Reade Theater, its largest.

    “If any film deserves to be seen on a big screen, it’s this,” said Curtis Tsui, a producer with Criterion. “There is no substitute for that.”

    The film is not entirely epic spectacle. Tolstoy was a master of juxtaposition, and his novel oscillates between the ugliness of battle and the blissful ignorance of aristocracy. Bondarchuk operates in much the same way: Gunfire can segue abruptly to domestic drama.

    “Every shot seemed expansive and titanic almost, but then it would balance that with intimacy,” Tsui said.

    In these moments, Bondarchuk’s cinematic curiosity shines. Natasha’s romantic delirium is rendered in jarring cuts and tinkling sounds. Filters and fishbowl lenses show hunting from the perspective of a wolf. Andrei’s spiritual awakening unfolds with a visual poetry that prefigures Terrence Malick.

    “The film has undergone a real renaissance,” Denise Youngblood said.​
     
  2. Ghostworld

    Ghostworld Forum Resident

    Location:
    US
    Famed also as The film that helped kill Kubricks Napoleon film.
     
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  3. Was this shot in 65mm? Just curious, thanks!
     
  4. budwhite

    budwhite Climb the mountains and get their good tidings.

    Location:
    Götaland, Sverige
    I believe so. But the source material they are working with are not great, so don't expect it to look like Spartacus.
    Can't remember where I read it though
     
  5. mBen989

    mBen989 Forum Resident

    Location:
    Scranton, PA
    I eagerly await the Criterion edition.
     
  6. mBen989

    mBen989 Forum Resident

    Location:
    Scranton, PA
    Actually, that was Waterloo, Bondarchuk's follow-up film.
     
  7. dkmonroe

    dkmonroe A completely self-taught idiot

    Location:
    Atlanta
    Looks truly awesome.
     
  8. Claus LH

    Claus LH Forum Resident

    Hmmmm. One wonders if they got hold of the original 70 mm negatives (shot in 70, printed in 70, unlike 65 mm shooting in the US) and if so, what condition they are in by now. The stories are many over the years, about how the 70 mm workparts have been languishing in horrible conditions in the Ukraine and elsewhere. I have the Ruscico DVD set of this, which is rather ugly-looking, so any upgrade is welcome.
     
  9. budwhite

    budwhite Climb the mountains and get their good tidings.

    Location:
    Götaland, Sverige
    The restoration was only done in 2K. That would suggest that they had to work with 35mm prints?

    And finally today, I had the pleasure on Sunday to attend a screening of Janus Films’ new restored presentation of Sergey Bondarchuk’s seven-hour War and Peace (1966) on the big screen at the American Cinematheque’s Aero Theatre in Santa Monica. It was an all day affair – the screening started at 2 PM and didn’t finish until after 10 PM. But the house was complete packed (even longtime Stanley Kubrick assistant Leon Vitali was there) and it was perhaps the most extraordinary film experience I’ve ever had the pleasure of attending – and I’ve had some great ones in my time as editor of The Digital Bits. But the sheer scope of Bondarchuk’s epic is singular in almost every way. The film had a nearly unlimited budget, with a cast of thousands (including actual Russian Army regiments to stage their recreations of the War of 1812), and period props and costumes borrowed from the Hermitage and other museums. It was shot in large format 65mm film, and there’s not a single digital effect to be found. I’m not exaggerating when I tell you that you have never seen its like before, nor will you ever see its like again. I don’t care how jaded a filmgoer you may be, your jaw will drop more than once while watching this film. Truly, the production eclipses Lawrence of Arabia, Lord of the Rings... you name it. This film has been almost impossible to see in its original Russian uncut version for over thirty years. More recently, it’s only been available on poor quality (unrestored) DVD releases from Image/Ruscico here in the States (long out of print) and Artificial Eye in the UK. Seeing this on the big screen has been on my personal bucket list since I studied film in college. Trust me, it’s just a wonder. This is spectacle on a scale it’s hard to imagine until you see it, all staged for real. This new restoration was done in 2K and the film is screening via DCP in just a handful of cities. The good news is that it appears that Criterion plans to release it on Blu-ray and DVD later in 2019. And if you live in the Los Angeles area, there’s even better news: The Aero screening was so successful that the American Cinematheque has decided to screen it again next month (on 4/27) at the Egyptian Theatre. Tickets are on sale now (click here) and they’re likely to sell out. So if you’re interested, you should act fast. This is, hands down, the cinema event of the year. If you ever get the chance to see this film on the big screen, you should jump at it. Special thanks to my old friend Ed Peters for suggesting the Aero screening to me and for joining me there. It was a very rare and wonderful treat.

    The Natural 4K, Captain Marvel, Apollo 11, Bill’s on Inglorious Treksperts & Sergey Bondarchuk’s War and Peace on the big screen
     
  10. htom

    htom Forum Resident

    Location:
    Montreal, Canada
    According to Lincoln Film Center's page on their recent screenings in February, they only showed this at 2k. Apparently the national film archive did not have the complete 70mm negative in its holdings, so many sources were used for the restoration.
     
  11. budwhite

    budwhite Climb the mountains and get their good tidings.

    Location:
    Götaland, Sverige
    Well, definitely buying the blu-ray when Criterion releases it. I've never heard of this film until a couple months ago, and I have never seen a Soviet/russian movie before, but the trailer looks exciting. Reminds a bit of Heaven's Gate or vice versa, and many other big spectacles from back in the day.

    I think the clue is to watch it as a mini series. There no way I'm doing 7h in one sitting. At least I don't think so...

    *edit

    The film is 421 minutes long, playing in four parts (which is how it was released in the Soviet Union at the time, parceled out across three years)

    The Fascinating Story Behind Sergei Bondarchuk’s 1968 Epic War and Peace

    That is interesting. Three years, kinda like the Lord of the Rings movies.
     
    Last edited: Mar 13, 2019
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  12. Vidiot

    Vidiot Now in 4K HDR!

    Location:
    Hollywood, USA
    IMDB says yes, the 1966 Russian War & Peace was shot in 65mm "SovScope" and released in 70mm prints.

    [​IMG]

    My take is that it was a long, long, extremely boring film with occasional interesting moments. It cost about $9.2 million dollars back in the day (basically $60M today), which was by far the most expensive Russian film ever made up until that time.
     
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  13. harmonica98

    harmonica98 Forum Resident

    Location:
    London, UK
    There was a 35mm showing of this a few years ago in London. I kind of regret not going. But only kind of!
     
  14. LeBon Bush

    LeBon Bush Hound of Love

    Location:
    Austria
    Okay, I really - like REALLY - need an american blu ray player some time for all the Criterion stuff. UK Criterion doesn't get all the stuff and War & Peace is a must-watch for me.
     
  15. Daedalus

    Daedalus I haven't heard it all.....

    Welcome news. I have the 5 disc dvd set of this film which was very watchable but it sounds like a lot has been done to create a high quality version. It is a magnificent film and should be saved. My wife and I watched the entire film one Sunday during a raging blizzard.
     
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  16. RayS

    RayS A Little Bit Older and a Little Bit Slower

    Location:
    Out of My Element
    "War and Peace" is playing this weekend at the Siskel Film Center in Chicago, in 4 parts across 2 days. As of this minute, my plan is to take the plunge. Tickets for the last 3 parts are discounted for those who attend part 1.
     
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  17. longdist01

    longdist01 Forum Resident

    Location:
    Chicago, IL USA
    War and Peace | Gene Siskel Film Center

    Official Trailer May 2019


     
    Last edited: May 14, 2019
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  18. RayS

    RayS A Little Bit Older and a Little Bit Slower

    Location:
    Out of My Element
    Apparently the call was made to move it up a week since the trailer was released. They must have known I was coming to town. :)
     
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  19. longdist01

    longdist01 Forum Resident

    Location:
    Chicago, IL USA
    War and Peace
    Coming soon : June 25, 2019


     
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  20. DaveySR

    DaveySR Forum Resident

    Location:
    Pennsylvania
    The battle scenes are truly cinematic spectacle.
     
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  21. townsend

    townsend Forum Resident

    Location:
    Montrose, CO
    I was just looking at DVDBeaver's review of the 2K restoration of War and Peace by The Criterion Collection: War and Peace Blu-ray - Sergey Bondarchuk

    I am not familiar with this film so I don't know what to expect, but a simple comparison of previous versions reveals an incredible upgrade in this new blu-ray. It is just extraordinary -- I didn't know they could get so much detail out of a 2K restoration (we have all seen 4K restoration where the reaction is meh). Wow.
     
  22. longdist01

    longdist01 Forum Resident

    Location:
    Chicago, IL USA
    A Must buy for me, will be out of town unable to see the screenings at Siskel Center this weekend....beautiful Restoration at last!

     
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  23. DaveySR

    DaveySR Forum Resident

    Location:
    Pennsylvania
    You can when the original source is 70mm.
     
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  24. fabre

    fabre Forum Resident

    Location:
    Germany
    I received my copy on DVD today. I only checked for a few minutes so I can't comment on the whole package but it looks like the flicker that was present on the version by the Russian Cinema Council has vanished. It was pretty heavy at times so I had hoped for an improvement.

    I guess I will watch this over the weekend. I have seen another adaptation by the BBC and it was disappointing when compared to Bondarchuk’s marvelous adaptation.
     
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  25. mBen989

    mBen989 Forum Resident

    Location:
    Scranton, PA
    Of course the elements scanned were 35.
     

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