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A massive six-hour biopic of Napoleon, tracing his career from his schooldays (where a snowball fight is staged like a military campaign), his flight from Corsica, through the French Revolution (where a real storm is intercut with a political storm) and the Terror, culminating in his triumphant invasion of Italy in 1797 (the film stops there because it was intended to be part one of six, but director Abel Gance never raised the money to make the other five). The film's legendary reputation is due to the astonishing range of techniques that Gance uses to tell his story, culminating in the final twenty-minute triptych sequence, which alternates widescreen panoramas with complex multiple- image montages projected simultaneously on three screens. Written by
Michael Brooke <email@example.com>
A copyright dispute over which music soundtrack should be performed with "Napoleon" exists between Zoetrope Studio/Francis Ford Coppola and the BFI/Kevin Brownlow/Carl Davis. When Brownlow assembled the original restored version in 1981 two scores were eventually produced, one (for the American market?) by Carmine Coppola (Francis' father) and another (for the UK market?) by Carl Davis, veteran of many new scores for old silent movies. Prior to two live performances of the Davis score in December 2004 to accompany a new 5hr+ restoration of Napoleon, Coppola attempted to prevent the performances going ahead without his late father's score on the grounds that his family owns the copyright over the film, even though Carmine Coppola's score was written for the short 4hr restoration. In the end the performances went ahead with Davis' score being used, although the dispute remains unresolved. Brownlow commented on this issue (comparing Coppola's behavior to that of Goebbels) before Davis himself conducted the two London performances. (Davis was recovering from a foot operation and was brought on stage in a wheelchair.) See more »
When Napoleon finds his eagle escaped/ set free at the school, the cup of water switches between his right and left hands in three consecutive shots. See more »
"Napoleon" is an absolute masterpiece in the world's history of filmmaking. In 1927, it was completely overshadowed by the technology of "The Jazz Singer". And that was a real tragedy for decades. Abel Gance is a director I will always admire for his innovation in filmmaking that still is impressive in the 21st Century. He mounted cameras on skis and swings to give the audience the effects that he wanted to convey, and it works perfectly. I was impressed by two great scenes - the 'ocean storm' scene and the final battlefield scene, which was done in the tints of the three colors of the French flag. Any aspiring director should study the techniques of Abel Gance, because the brilliance of this great director would be inspiring! Gance was also instrumental in perfect casting. Though Albert Dieudonne was older, as actors go, he was perfectly cast as Napoleon. If this was an American film and not a French film, I'm sure it would be considered as one of the greatest films ever made by AFI and other organizations.
I was glad that Abel Gance was able to see the affection that audiences had for this film in the late 1980's and early 1990's when the film went on a world tour with a world class orchestra. It would have been sad if Gance had passed on without knowing that his film was considered a masterpiece. If their was ever a silent film that 'pulls out all of the stops', this film is it. Viva Le Gance - the Visionist!
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