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Blu-ray Review: WAR AND PEACE
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PHOTOGRAPHY
WAR AND PEACE (Criterion Collection)
Blu-ray review by David Blackwell

DETAILS: 422 minutes, interviews, making-of documentaries, trailer
VIDEO: 2.35:1 (Anamorphic Widescreen) 1080p High Definition
AUDIO: Russian 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio
Subtitles: English

STUDIO: The Criterion Collection/ Janus Films/ Mosfilm Studios
RELEASE DATE: 6- -2019

DISC ONE- ANDREI BOLKONSKY/ NATASHA ROSTOVA
DISC TWO- THE YEAR 1812/ PIERRE BEZUKHOV
Andrei Bolkonsky has it all with a wife and child on the way. He goes into military service to fight in Europe with the Russian army against Napoleon. Meanwhile, his friend Pierre starts to learn about what he wants from life. His niece Natasha falls for Andrei years later (after Andrei's wife dies after childbirth). Her courtship isn't the easiest for her or Andrei. Soon, Napoleon will show up with his army which will be a test for the Russian spirit in an epic adaptation of Leo Tolstoy's WAR AND PEACE which was shown as four films in the Soviet Union/ USSR (aka Russia) when it was first released. The film is a revelation- an instant classic.

WAR AND PEACE is one of the most epic and patriotic Russian films. It has gorgeous cinematography and framing of shots (and scenes) that were ahead of their time. The aerial shots of the battles between the Russians and Napoleon's army show how big the battles were done on a practical scale. The battles in this four film epic even outdo LORD OF THE RINGS on scale and without CGI too. Director Sergei Bondachuk manages to use innovative camera techniques, get in the heads of each major character without it feeling out of place, and command a cast of thousands. It is a film born out of ego from the days of communist Russian (aka the USSR/ Soviet Union) because they felt insulted the Americans made an adaptation of the big Leo Tolstoy novel which was highly regarded by the Russian public. They set out to prove the West wrong and the four film saga took over four years to make and had a budget that would rival the budgets of many blockbusters today as money and resources were unlimited for this production of national pride. It ended up winning the Best Foreign Language Film at the Academy Awards. WAR AND PEACE is going to look the best it will from 2K digital restoration given how the Russian film stock ruined takes of the epic during filming and requiring multiple takes. The restoration does show off magnificent colors which look like what Technicolor could have provided at the same. It would be a film worth upgrading to 4K UHD if Criterion ever releases it to that format in North America.

SPECIAL FEATURES:
DISC ONE-
Woina I Mir- a black and white German documentary on the making of the movie from 1966

DISC TWO-
Making War and Peace- a making-of documentary made in 1969 by Mosfilm
Interview with cinematographer Anatoly Petritsky about the challenges faced making WRA AND PEACE
Interview with filmmaker Fedor Bondarchuk as he talks about his father's film making career and WAR AND PEACE
Also there is a 1968 profile on actress Ludmila Savelyeva for the French TV program Les Sovietiques

A COLD WAR CLASSIC- Historian Denise J. Youngblood talks about the cultural and historical contexts of the WAR AND PEACE epic film series in addition to providing many tidbits about the production (and the film making climate of Russia in the 1960s). She mentions that the true cost of the movie is complicated, but it would amount to somewhere between $700 million and $1 billion in today's money.

Janus Films rerelease trailer
Essay on the movie on the back of a fold out poster which is included inside the blu-ray case

FINAL ANALYSIS: WAR AND PEACE is epic Russian cinema (with unlimited budget and support from the government in the 1960s). It is something to be seen for the great cinematography and battle sequences (with thousands of Russian soldiers as extras- no CGI) that will leave you in awe. The extras are also worth watching if you want to see how the movie was made. It is a winning blu-ray from Criterion Collection that you should own.

This review is (c) 7-31-2019 David Blackwell and cannot be reprinted without permission. Send all comments to feedback@enterline-media.com and check for further content at http://enterlinemedia.tumblr.com