This two-part rendition of War and Peace represents more than a prestige mega-
production; this is the barbaric yawp of the Soviet film industry circa 1968, an entertainment A-bomb test announcing to the world: Here is what we are capable of. (The Kremlin was eager enough for a decisive blow in the cinematic-spectacle race to put a Red Army detachment under star-director Sergei Bondarchuks command.) Far from the front lines of the Battle of Borodino, Bondarchuks camera platoon applies its virtuosity to the country estates and pastel ballrooms that serve as display cases for the films Natasha (teen ballerina Ludmila Savelyeva). The novels domestic drama is judiciously streamlinedsubplots pared off, characters demoted to the backgroundbut theres still an impulse to get everything in. (Bondarchuk relies on voice-over to draw things together.) But of course its magnificently presumptuousand fearlessto even attempt to transfer Tolstoys historical-psychological scope, intact, to another medium. Its as hubristic as invading Russia.