War and Peace – Sergei Bondarchuk (1967)


“The movies now give us an ‘epic’ nearly every week of the year. Digital technology, corporate budgets and the public’s own current thirst for shallow escapism have paved the way for visions both ludicrous and wondrous. … But what do these films have to say? As we wallow in popcorn excess, Janus Films restores and re-releases the grandest, deepest epic of all, Sergei Bondarchuk’s War and Peace. Made in 1967, it shames everything, and I mean absolutely everything, playing at the ArcLight today. Slated for a June release on DVD and Blu-Ray by the Criterion Collection, it is touring various arthouse spots and must be seen on a proper, wide canvas. … If the average Marvel movie runs about 2 hours and 22 minutes, Bondarchuk’s sweeping rendition of Leo Tolstoy’s immortal novel clocks in at about 7 hours. It was a product of the Cold War, when political rivalry made for leaps in artistic ambition. In 1956 King Vidor directed an American adaptation of War and Peace starring the very un-Tolstoyan cast of Audrey Hepburn, Henry Fonda and Mel Ferrer. It was produced by Italian guru Dino De Laurentiis, a cutthroat known for his devotion to the gods of commercialism. Not content with letting American capitalists water down a national epic, the Soviets decided to do their own cinematic rendition, bigger and better. … James Cameron would salivate at the details of Bondarchuk’s shoot. 40 museums across the USSR loaned authentic 19thcentury relics, including furniture and chandeliers, thousands of Red Army soldiers were put to work as extras to re-create the Napoleonic battles of the era. Soviet film luminaries were cast in key roles, including ballerina Ludmila Savelyeva as Natasha. Somehow Bondarchuk still had enough chutzpah left to cast himself as the lead character of Pierre Bezukhov. James Cameron would salivate at the details of Bondarchuk’s shoot. 40 museums across the USSR loaned authentic 19thcentury relics, including furniture and chandeliers, thousands of Red Army soldiers were put to work as extras to re-create the Napoleonic battles of the era. Soviet film luminaries were cast in key roles, including ballerina Ludmila Savelyeva as Natasha. Somehow Bondarchuk still had enough chutzpah left to cast himself as the lead character of Pierre Bezukhov. …”
The Storm of History: Sergei Bundarchuk’s War and Peace
Criterion: War and Peace (Video)
Criterion – War and Peace: Saint Petersburg Fiddles, Moscow Burns
W – War and Peace (film series)
NY Times: A Peerless ‘War and Peace’ Film Is Restored to Its Former Glory (Video)
YouTube: War and Peace | Trailer, From Literature to Film – WAR & PEACE by Tolstoy and Bondarchuk 40:02

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