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Friday, May 15, 2015

War And Peace (1956)

As Napoleon (Herbert Lom) prepares to invade Russia, a young girl (Audrey Hepburn) finds herself loved by three men: a Prince (Mel Ferrer), a Count (Henry Fonda) and a dashing soldier (Vittorio Gassman). Of course, it's about more than that. But it was a mistake to cram Tolstoy's 1200 page novel into a 3 1/2 hour movie. At least, this one. First off, let me confess that I've never been able to make it through the novel. That being said, King Vidor's film is a turgid slog. It just drags (Nino Rota's dull dirge like underscore doesn't help things) until it becomes an endurance test to get to the end of the film. I think it was near the 2 hour mark when I started wishing it had been directed by Cecil B. DeMille who might have added some much needed vulgarity to the tasteful proceedings. Even the elegant Audrey (who looks lovely) can't seem to muster the much needed energy to make Natasha appealing. Henry Fonda is so incredibly miscast (too old, too American, too dull) and Mel Ferrer is lifeless long before his character bites the dust. Some of the battle scenes are well done and the citizens' abandonment of Moscow is very well done. With John Mills, Anita Ekberg (who surprisingly gives the film's best performance), Oscar Homolka, Barry Jones, May Britt, Milly Vitale, Jeremy Brett and Helmut Dantine. 

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