War and Peace (Sergei Bondarchuk, 1966)

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gordonovitch
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War and Peace (Sergei Bondarchuk, 1966)

#1 Post by gordonovitch » Tue Mar 20, 2007 4:29 pm

Amazon and other vendors are listing a new release (street date March 13th) of Bondarchuk's 1968 War and Peace, offered by an extremely obscure company, Hurricane Int'l (some vendors list Koch as distributor). Amazon's listing here.

Does anyone know what this thing amounts to? I'm assuming it's a cheap knock-off of a bad transfer, but I'm curious anyway since I adore this film. However unlikely anyone will come up with a better transfer of a better print than Ruscico's edition, which left a lot to be desired, the fantasy remains.

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Gordon
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#2 Post by Gordon » Tue Mar 20, 2007 9:19 pm

Well, Kultur put it out in the USA on DVD first - in pan and scan. I doubt that this edition will best the Ruscico/Image edition. I have the Artificial Eye edition now, which is PAL, whereas the Image Ent is a badly-converted PAL-NTSC job.

The film was restored to some degree in 35mm in the early 90s from the best surviving 35mm elements. The original 70mm neg (not 65mm like Todd-AO and Super Panavision) is apparently held in the Ukraine and there is a debate between the Ukraine and Russian over Bondarchuk's legacy as he was born in Belozerka, USSR which is now Belotserka Ukraine. The condition of the neg is unknown. It's fucking madness. Imagine if the 65mm prime elements for Lawrence of Arabia had been held in Mexico in the 80s and 90s, making Harris' restoration immensely difficult - there would have been outrage. As it is, the 35mm restoration negative is okay compared to other Russian color films of the 60s/70s - and the transfer utilised digital restoration tools. The sound is great. It would be good to see a major photo-chem/digital-6K restoration of the prime 65mm and if need be the prime 35mm elements at some point. Maybe another war where Russia.... nah, bad idea. :wink:

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Dylan
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#3 Post by Dylan » Wed Mar 21, 2007 3:11 am

Is the version listed at Netflix in 2.35:1?

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#4 Post by Ashirg » Wed Mar 21, 2007 3:13 am

The specs for the new version -

DVD Features:
Keep Case
3 - Disc Set
Full Frame - 1.33

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#5 Post by gordonovitch » Wed Mar 21, 2007 10:53 am

Gordon wrote:Well, Kultur put it out in the USA on DVD first - in pan and scan. I doubt that this edition will best the Ruscico/Image edition. I have the Artificial Eye edition now, which is PAL, whereas the Image Ent is a badly-converted PAL-NTSC job.
Thanks for all this info. I didn't realize that the original neg resides in the Ukraine--I'd have hoped Mosfilm held it, but then the docu on the Ruscico edition talks about the elements being gleaned from all over the place for the restoration. I pre-ordered Ruscico's NTSC version the minute I heard about it back when. I'd hate to buy this thing all over again, but is the AE PAL issue noticeably better? There are some sharpness issues with the NTSC/Ruscico and the color wavers all over the goddamned place, but I assumed these were qualities inherent in the print. I guess we're very lucky just to have the Ruscico.

Ashrig's ratio spec of full frame for the new ed. clinches the fact that it's not worthy of consideration.

Gordon Thomas

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#6 Post by Tommaso » Wed Mar 21, 2007 11:03 am

gordonovitch wrote: I'd hate to buy this thing all over again, but is the AE PAL issue noticeably better? There are some sharpness issues with the NTSC/Ruscico and the color wavers all over the goddamned place, but I assumed these were qualities inherent in the print. I guess we're very lucky just to have the Ruscico.
By all accounts from the Beaver and several people here, one should always go for the PAL versions if it comes to Ruscico (the AE's are absolutely identical). I haven't seen "War and Peace" yet, but the sharpness problems and colour bleeding is very pronounced on the NTSC version of "Mirror", for example, and I have never heard from anyone reporting similar problems with the PAL variant.

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#7 Post by MichaelB » Wed Mar 21, 2007 11:15 am

Tommaso wrote:By all accounts from the Beaver and several people here, one should always go for the PAL versions if it comes to Ruscico (the AE's are absolutely identical). I haven't seen "War and Peace" yet, but the sharpness problems and colour bleeding is very pronounced on the NTSC version of "Mirror", for example, and I have never heard from anyone reporting similar problems with the PAL variant.
Well, the PAL War and Peace is very far from being pristine, but I can easily believe that it's superior to the NTSC version, and I absolutely endorse what you've said about opting for PAL as a general rule. The basic problem is that the masters are encoded for PAL, which are then converted to NTSC, with all that that implies in terms of unwanted digital side-effects.

Certainly, the PAL version seems to be the one to go for - which effectively means the Artificial Eye release, as it's much easier to get hold of.

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#8 Post by Gordon » Wed Mar 21, 2007 5:58 pm

If anyone here is going to buy the AE R2 edition, you should consider buying Bondarchuk's, Waterloo, which makes for great rainy sunday afternoon viewing. As with War and Peace, the battle scenes, camera moves and editing are awesome. Brilliant score, too by Nino Rota and the DVD is in the original quad-stereo.

Image Image Image

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#9 Post by blindside8zao » Mon May 21, 2007 4:30 pm

so, one of these appears to be out of print now, the more expensive American release? That leaves two other American releases to choose from. Which is the best American release and how much am I missing out on by not picking up a foreign release? Should I just shoot for a used copy of the old one? Rereading the novel now and am really going to be in the mood to watch this for the first time.

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#10 Post by Darth Lavender » Mon May 21, 2007 5:08 pm

The American release is an NTSC>PAL conversion, and since Bondarchuk's film made heavy use of a primitive sort of steadycam, the American release suffers from a whole lot of ghosting and generally weak picture quality.

I say, definitely make an effort to get a PAL release.

There's no comparisons online, but DVDBeaver does have a comparison of Ruscico's PAL King Lear and their PAL>NTSC abomination. The PAL image is very noticably better in every way and I assume the difference in quality would be about the same for Ruscico's War And Peace (and any other Ruscico DVD)

Speaking for myself, I made the mistake of buying the NTSC (in my naivette, I assumed that a DVD costing nearly a hundred Australian dollars would present the film in something better than an el-cheapo PAL>NTSC conversion which is why, now, I prefer to avoid Ruscico DVDs like the plague. Heck, ethical issues aside, you could probably download an AVI of the film and get better quality than the NTSC version.)
/Rant.

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#11 Post by rgross » Mon May 21, 2007 7:02 pm

I've ended us having both the Ruscico NTSC version released by Image and Ruscico's own PAL version.

The way to watch the NTSC Ruscicos is interlaced, either 480i or 1080i if your DVD player upgrades standard DVDs. The motion and panning ghostings are not there leaving just the mediocre transfer that Ruscicos usually have. I do not notice much difference between the PAL and NTSC when I watch either on a player that outputs a 1080i picture.

With War and Peace just don't get the Kultur version which is a pan and scan full screen version.

War and Peace is one of my favorite films so I'm still waiting for a good release that would hopefully also have more footage. The Ruscico is the best there is until someone truly does a restoration a la Lawrence of Arabia etc.

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#12 Post by tryavna » Mon May 21, 2007 8:34 pm

rgross wrote:War and Peace is one of my favorite films so I'm still waiting for a good release that would hopefully also have more footage. The Ruscico is the best there is until someone truly does a restoration a la Lawrence of Arabia etc.
What extra footage is there? I was always under the impression that, if you took PAL's 4% speed-up into account, the Ruscico has always been complete. Or are you talking about something else?

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#13 Post by rgross » Mon May 21, 2007 9:16 pm

When Ruscico's War and Peace DVD was issued a few years ago there was a discussion in this forum about the film's running time. For instance, when the film first came out in the 60's I remember mention of an 8 hour French version. I even e mailed Ruscico about this and they came back with the statement that Bondarchuk may have done various cuts for various purposes but the version they were bringing out was the official full length version. That seemed a bit equivocal to me.

Maltin's 1999 video guide mentions a 507 minute version. Whether his current guide still indicates that I don't know. I guess I'll have to update him. The Ruscico version is 403 minutes including PAL speed up.

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#14 Post by tryavna » Tue May 22, 2007 11:30 am

Well, Maltin is notoriously bad at listing correct running times for non-U.S. films. (He's even hopelessly wrong about many of the British films he lists. Not that it's necessarily his fault. IMDb is frequently just as wrong.)

It's possible that Bondarchuk re-cut the film, but without actually reading the e-mail you received from them, it's hard for me to tell how equivocal they were.

By the way, the AFI lists the total running time of the 70mm print as 420 minutes (240 + 180), which is almost exactly what the Ruscico discs add up to if you take into account PAL speed-up: 140 + 93 + 78 + 92 = 403 * 1.04 = 419.

I'd certainly welcome more footage, if there's any out there. But I don't see any concrete evidence to suggest that there is. At least, it's not something that I worry about.

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#15 Post by Antoine Doinel » Wed May 30, 2007 5:37 pm

The Gene Siskel Film Center will be showing a newly restored print. They have the official runtime listed as 415 minutes.

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#16 Post by gordonovitch » Thu May 31, 2007 12:23 pm

Antoine Doinel wrote:The Gene Siskel Film Center will be showing a newly restored print. They have the official runtime listed as 415 minutes.
Hmmm. What's going on here? This is probably the same restoration engineered in the 90's by the Russians and on display from Ruscico. But I e-mailed the distributors of this latest theatrical release, Seagull Films, to see if I could confirm anyway.

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#17 Post by Barmy » Tue Jun 26, 2007 4:18 pm

Coming to Film Forum in October. Running time 411 minutes. Fortunately split into 2 rather than 4 parts. Not the best venue for this type of film, but still a must-see.

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#18 Post by Person » Wed Jun 27, 2007 6:49 pm

The 1988 Russian restoration did not include English-subtitled prints. This is probably an all-new print made from the restoration negative, possibly with new subtitles, ie. the subs that appear on the DVD editions. The digital transfer for the DVD was created from the restoration neg and recieved digital reparation, clean-up and color-correction. This would mean that a 35mm print made from the restoration neg would have flaws that the DVD does not. I can't find any info on a 2K (or higher) restoration outputted to 35mm. I did find this:

Chicago Tribune review of this re-release.

If anyone goes to the Film Forum screenings, please post your thoughts on the quality of the prints.

NY's Jacob Burns Film Center screening earlier this month was hosted by British historian, Simon Schama.
Though the version showing at the Burns was the subject of a recent restoration, a grainier copy is widely available at good DVD rental stores.
I wonder...

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#19 Post by unclehulot » Sun Dec 09, 2007 3:52 am


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#20 Post by HerrSchreck » Sun Dec 09, 2007 12:18 pm

I wonder if this is going to be the source for the discs that Kino announced for late 08 ("as of presstime 08 is doable" or something like that) in their brand new catalog. If we get a properly converted hi def transfer of this film, without the usual compromises in so much of Kino's sound catalog, it'll be a no-brainer.

Did everyone know that to this day this film still ranks as the most expensive ever made? 100 mil in 1960's dollars. That's a lot of yeyo paella, man...

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#21 Post by Darth Lavender » Sun Dec 09, 2007 5:23 pm

Good to see this thread resurrected.

I'm increasingly curious about this new restoration. Sadly, I doubt the Kino will offer enough of an upgrade to justify rebuying all 4 volumes but it does bring hope that one day, perhaps, we'll finally be able to see the film in all it's glory (70mm prints and all. Perhaps on HD, perhaps only in theatrical retrospectives, but it's nice to think that we won't always be limited to the dull, faded image we currently have.)

Any idea what this restoration involved? Discovery of new elements, or could a decent restoration have been carried out entirely on the film that already exists (new chemical processes or something. I know nothing about the subject, so I'd be interested if anyone can enlighten me)

While I can see how the original 70mm being in Ukraine would prevent a legitimate release of any kind, one would think that there'd be enough film-lovers on both sides to at least confirm that it's safe, etc. :?

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#22 Post by Person » Mon Dec 10, 2007 8:28 pm

I can't find any info on a new restoration. There may have been work done, but it hasn't been reported. It could be that the 70mm neg reels were used - who knows. An 8k digital intermediate restoration would be the way to go, I reckon - 8k was recently used on the restoration of Blade Runner's 65mm special effects footage, so the facilities are available. Russian (Agfa?) 70mm neg stocks were pretty poor compared to Kodak's stocks of the 60s, so they never looked that great and never will, but I love the subdued tones of Agfa. What hampers War and Peace's basic image is the contrast fluctuations. On the DVD, in addition to the contrast problems, is the piss-poor compression job. The scenery breaks up badly during pans and dollies. Great film, though - I love it; it's why we invented Cinema, frankly. I love Waterloo, too.

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#23 Post by Darth Lavender » Tue Dec 11, 2007 9:43 am

Interesting about the AGFA; watching the DVD I couldn't figure out if the dull faded look was deliberate or not, then I saw the (too few, only 12) still images (on disk 4, I think) and assumed the whole film was supposed to look like that. (Of course, most of these publicity images are not actual film-grabs, but photographs taken during filming, so it makes sense that they'd be a different type of film-stock, and possibly even have a completely different level of color saturation, etc. (heck, most of the Godfather's publicity shots are in black & white)
Nice to think, then, that my DVDs are perhaps a lot closer to how the film should look than I originally thought.
Person wrote:On the DVD, in addition to the contrast problems, is the piss-poor compression job. The scenery breaks up badly during pans and dollies. Great film, though - I love it; it's why we invented Cinema, frankly. I love Waterloo, too.
I think the 'compression problems' you're refering to are the PAL>NTSC conversion discussed earlier. What makes this particularly problematic is that this film is noted for it's invention and heavy use of a sort of proto-steadicam.
I might have ranted about this earlier, too, but for that reason I literally will not buy any Ruscico DVDs (I'll occasionally buy a ruscico artificial eye port, and often borrow them from the university library) Paying $80 for a movie, and then discovering it's a PAL>NTSC conversion...
And, if Ruscico had only had the honesty to print something like "converted from a PAL source" on the box, I would have simply ordered the original PAL pressing and I'd probably still be buying DVDs from them. As it is, even their website, which sells both PAL and NTSC, doesn't mention the obvious inferiority of the NTSCs for the benefit of those who can play both formats.

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#24 Post by Barmy » Tue Dec 11, 2007 2:14 pm

I'm somewhat skeptical that the 35mm print currently circulating has been "restored". It is no better than the print screened at MoMA approximately 15 years ago. I am not that picky about prints, and I thought it was fine. But there is some artifacting and color fading. To me it looks like an average decent print of a 60s color film.

I suspect that the color on the original 70mm was not exactly "technicolor". Many Soviet films of this period are slightly muted.

As an aside, amazon is selling the BBC version of War & Peace at 40% off.

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#25 Post by HerrSchreck » Wed Dec 12, 2007 12:02 am

Barmy wrote:I suspect that the color on the original 70mm was not exactly "technicolor". Many Soviet films of this period are slightly muted.
VERY VERY molto true. Not the most sensitive or creamy color film stock there. Looking at Klimov, the non-bleached scenes in STALKER & Mirror, Anna Karenina, etc, bears this out. I learned this after bitching about my Kino disc of Come And See... I thought it was a typical Kino glurtch from their ho-hum talkie catalog. Then I saw the native pal discs-- same weird degraded, faded, grainy look. Very weird stock indeed.

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