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War and Peace [Blu-ray]
(King Vidor, 1956)
Review by Gary Tooze
Theatrical: Paramount Pictures / Ponti-De Laurentiis Production
Region: FREE! (as verified by the Oppo Blu-ray player)
Disc Size: 43,554,382,114 bytes
Feature Size: 43,398,930,432 bytes
Video Bitrate: 23.99 Mbps
Case: Standard Blu-ray case
Release date: January 20th, 2015
Aspect ratio: 1.78:1
Resolution: 1080p / 23.976 fps
Video codec: MPEG-4 AVC Video
Dolby TrueHD Audio English 795 kbps 2.0 / 48 kHz / 795 kbps / 16-bit (AC3 Embedded: 2.0 / 48 kHz / 224 kbps / DN -4dB)
Dolby Digital Audio Spanish 224 kbps 2.0 / 48 kHz / 224 kbps
/ DN -4dB
English (SDH), French, Spanish, none
Description: By 1812, Napoleon's forces controlled much of Europe. Russia, one of the few countries still unconquered, prepares to face Napoleon's troops together with Austria. Among the Russian soldiers are Count Nicholas Rostov and Prince Andrei Bolkonsky. Count Pierre Bezukhov, a friend of Andrei's and self-styled intellectual who is not interested in fighting. Pierre's life changes when his father dies, leaving him a vast inheritance. He is attracted to Natasha Rostov, Nicholas's sister, but she is too young, so he gives in to baser desires and marries the shallow, manipulative Princess Helene. The marriage ends when Pierre discovers his wife's true nature. Andrei is captured and later released by the French, and returns home only to watch his wife die in childbirth. Months later, Pierre and Andrei meet again. Andrei sees Natasha and falls in love, but his father will only permit the marriage if they postpone it for one year until Natasha turns 17. While Andrei is away on a military mission, Natasha is drawn to Anatole Kuragin, a womanizer. Pierre saves Natasha by telling her of Anatole's past before she can elope with him. Napoleon invades Russia. Pierre visits Andrei on the eve of the battle, and observes the battle that follows. Traumatized by the carnage, he vows to kill Napoleon himself.
In 1805, most of Europe is torn apart by Napoleon Bonaparte's drive to conquer more and more territory. In Moscow, many young men have joined the army, including Nicholas Rostov, the son of Count Ilya Rostov and his wife Nataly, and the brother of young Petya and the flighty but devoted Natasha. The Rostovs' friend Pierre, the illegitimate son of the ailing, wealthy Count Bezukhov, has recently returned from Paris and believes that Napoleon is a "cleansing force" who can establish equality and liberty. Despite his pacifism, Pierre wishes Nicholas well and then visits his friend, army officer Dolokhov, a notorious rake. There, the comrades indulge in drinking games but are interrupted by Prince Andrey Bolkonsky, an officer of much finer character than Dolokhov. Andrey informs Pierre that his estranged father, who is near death, is calling for him, and Pierre goes to his father's mansion, where various relatives snub him. Their derision changes to hypocritical concern, however, after the old count dies and it is discovered that he has accepted Pierre as legitimate and named him his sole heir. The scheming Helene Kuragina immediately sets her sights on Pierre and soon he falls in love with her, while her father, Prince Vasili Kuragin, insinuates himself as the administrator of Pierre's vast estates. One day, Pierre runs into Andrey in the country as Andrey is escorting his pregnant wife Lise to his father's house. Andrey, who feels trapped by the clinging Lise, had earlier advised Pierre never to marry, and now Pierre refuses to accept his warnings.Excerpt from TCM located HERE
In a span of three hours and twenty-six minutes, these people roll out
on the screen a vast Technicolored panorama of human drama and military
spectacle, which, while it may at times stagger the viewer, gives no
evidence of having exhausted them. The whole crisscrossed saga of
Czarist patricians and the repulse of Napoleon in Russia in 1812 unfolds
with a ponderous rhythm, and the actors extant at the end—especially
Henry Fonda and Audrey Hepburn—appear as fresh as they were when it
Image : NOTE: The below Blu-ray captures were taken directly from the Blu-ray disc.
The King Vidor 1956 version of War and Peace advances over the past SD versions in the Paramount Blu-ray transfer. It's an impressive looking production with cinematography by Jack Cardiff. The image quality shows some grit and minor grain but is fairly modest since the film's 3.5 hour length minimizes the overall bitrate. This is dual-layered and has reasonably layered contrast. Colors seem brighter and truer than SD could relate although it can tend to look pretty flat. It is transferred in the 1.78:1 aspect ratio (slightly bastardized from 1.85). This Blu-ray shows a couple of surprising vertical scratches but is generally consistent providing a pleasing presentation.
CLICK EACH BLU-RAY CAPTURE TO SEE ALL IMAGES IN FULL 1920X1080 RESOLUTION
Paramount use an infrequently heard Dolby TrueHD 2.0 channel at a puny 795 kbps. Effects have minor punch and the celebrated Italian composerNino Rota's (8 1/2, I Clowns, Purple Noon, The Leopard etc.) score seems to benefit more from the lossless transfer. It shifts from a full choir and the pageantry of period with traditional melodies to more dramatic flourishes exporting intensity. There are optional subtitles and my Oppo has identified it as being a region FREE disc playable on Blu-ray machines worldwide.
There are no supplements at all. I suppose due to the length that a commentary would be out of the question, but you'd think there could be something - if only a trailer or 'premiere' newsreel.
January 13th, 2015
About the Reviewer: Hello, fellow Beavers! I have been interested in film since I viewed a Chaplin festival on PBS when I was around 9 years old. I credit DVD with expanding my horizons to fill an almost ravenous desire to seek out new film experiences. I currently own approximately 9500 DVDs and have reviewed over 5000 myself. I appreciate my discussion Listserv for furthering my film education and inspiring me to continue running DVDBeaver. Plus a healthy thanks to those who donate and use our Amazon links.
Although I never wanted to become one of those guys who
focused 'too much' on image and sound quality - I
find HD is swiftly pushing me in that direction.
Oppo Digital BDP-83 Universal Region FREE Blu-ray/SACD
Gary W. Tooze
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