7.5/10
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Napoleon (1927)

Napoléon vu par Abel Gance (original title)
A film about the French general's youth and early military career.

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Cast

Cast overview, first billed only:
...
Vladimir Roudenko ...
Napoléon Bonaparte enfant
...
Maximilien Robespierre
Alexandre Koubitzky ...
Georges-Jacques Danton
...
Jean-Paul Marat
...
Louis Saint-Just
...
Suzanne Bianchetti ...
La reine Marie-Antoinette
Marguerite Gance ...
Charlotte Corday
Yvette Dieudonné ...
Élisa Bonaparte
Philippe Hériat ...
Antonio Salicetti
...
Le général Lazare Hoche
Eugénie Buffet ...
Laetizia Bonaparte
Acho Chakatouny ...
Pozzo di Borgo
Nicolas Koline ...
Tristan Fleuri
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Storyline

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 <michael@everyman.demon.co.uk>

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis

Taglines:

Abel Gance's 1927 Masterpiece [reissue]


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Details

Country:

Release Date:

17 February 1929 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

Abel Gance's Napoleon  »

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Box Office

Gross USA:

$10,000,000, 31 December 1981
See more on IMDbPro »

Company Credits

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Technical Specs

Runtime:

(DVD edition) | (2000 restoration) | (1981 restored) | (cinémathèque française print) | (Blu-Ray digital restoration)

Sound Mix:

(1981 re-release)| |

Color:

| (tinted) (some sequences)

Aspect Ratio:

1.33 : 1
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Did You Know?

Trivia

Abel Gance remembered one scene that was removed by the censors--that of the execution of civilians by soldiers. The camera is used like a bullet, zooming towards one human target, then another, then another. The sequence is lost, although a still photograph does survive. See more »

Goofs

One of the Corsicans in the inn states "Our fatherland is Italy with the Duke of Savoy". The Duchy of Savoy had ceased to exist in 1713 (eighty years earlier), when the Duchy acquired the Kingdom of Sardinia and the Duke then bore the title of the King of Sardinia. Italy was a geographic place not a political entity at this time. See more »

Connections

Edited into Bonaparte et la révolution (1972) See more »

Soundtracks

The Thrill of Being In Love (Love Theme of Napoleon and Josephine)
Music by Carmine Coppola
Lyrics by Italia Coppola (USA version)
UK version: score by Carl Davis (based largely on works by Beethoven)
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User Reviews

 
Gance needed a figure as powerful as "Napoleon" to fulfill his dream of super cinema…
11 April 2004 | by See all my reviews

Abel Gance's 'Napoleon' was premiered on April 7, 1927, at the Paris Opera House, the first movie to be accorded such an honor… It was been shown on a triple screen and to full orchestral accompaniment, running slightly under four hours…

Impressive as it seems, it was conceived as the first of a six-part biography running many hours and tracing the life of Napoleon from childhood to the bitter end in St Helena… Fortunately-for Abel Gance who directed and for us-the project was only completed to that moment where Napoleon enters Italy at the head of the French army, and the later and less pleasant aspects of his spectacular career were left unfilmed... The Little Corporal, after all, is a less controversial figure than the Emperor…

Gance needed a figure as emblematic and powerful as 'Napoleon' to fulfill his dream of super cinema…

'Napoleon' is a masterpiece of excess:

  • The child Bonaparte keeps a pet eagle and wins a snow fight while at school in Brienne... In this sequence, the frame splits into nine subliminal images; as Napoleon watches his men entering Italy, the screen expands on each side to form a breathtaking panorama, then changes into three coordinated views of the scene…


  • The National Convention seems to sway and rock as Napoleon makes his escape from Corsica in a storm-tossed sailboat…


  • The Gallic of cabaret singers, Damia, leads French troops into battle personifying 'La Marseillaise'…


'Napoleon' is like one grand musical composition. It throbs with life…

That was Gance the great filmmaker who thought that film could do everything and who said to Kevin Brownlow: 'For me, the cinema is not just pictures. It is something great, mysterious and sublime.' Brownlow is known now not only as an English filmmaker and film historian but also as a great restorer of silent films, notably Abel Gance's 'Napoleon.'


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