7.4/10
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53 user 30 critic

Napoleon (1927)

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

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4 wins. See more awards »
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Cast

Cast overview, first billed only:
...
Vladimir Roudenko ...
...
Alexandre Koubitzky ...
...
Abel Gance ...
...
Suzanne Bianchetti ...
Marguerite Gance ...
Yvette Dieudonné ...
Élisa Bonaparte
Philippe Hériat ...
...
Eugénie Buffet ...
Acho Chakatouny ...
Nicolas Koline ...
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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

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Abel Gance's 1927 Masterpiece [reissue]


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Details

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Release Date:

17 February 1929 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

Abel Gance's Napoleon  »

Company Credits

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Technical Specs

Runtime:

(DVD edition) | (2000 restoration) | (1981 restored) | (cinémathèque française print)

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

In the last sections of the film, when three images are combined to across the screen, some of Gance's technical limitations can be noted. In shots of the Army of Italy that one of the images is duplicated and reversed to give an illusion of more soldiers. Shots of Napoleon show differences in the position of the cockade on his hat - sometimes over his left eye and other times over his right - showing that some of the images have been similarly reversed. See more »

Connections

Featured in CinéMagique (2002) See more »

Soundtracks

The Thrill of Being In Love (Love Theme of Napoleon and Josephine)
Music by Carmine Coppola
Lyrics by Italia Coppola
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User Reviews

 
Excellent -- but where's the DVD?
6 January 2003 | by (Baltimore, Maryland) – See all my reviews

I saw this back in '81 or '82, on the Big Screen at the Shrine Auditorium in Los Angeles, with Carmine Coppola conducting a live orchestra -- there has never been anything like that in all my movie-going experience! The closest that's come since was _Intolerance_, restored, with another live orchestra performing under the baton of the composer, Gillian Anderson (no, not the one from the X-Files). That, too, was an occasion to remember ... but where is Napoleon on DVD?

As many other reviewers have said, Napoleon was a relevatory experience. Certainly, other films to that point had used most of the devices Gance employed so brilliantly (except, of course, his three-screen-wide "Polyvision"), but then sound came in and the requirements of the microphone killed the recently mobilized camera. The camera became very static for at least the next ten years of films -- dynamic camera movements only returned when sound mixing came in to being, and scenes could be shot MOS (mit out sound), with foley and overdubbing replacing the missed sounds.

For this reason, Napoleon is important to see -- as a technical achievement. But Gance's artistry wasn't limited to gimmicks. His pacing, editing, and direction of the actors (including Dieudonne as Nappy -- looking amazingly Rod-Stewart-like) is excellent as well.

Highly recommended -- and when the DVD comes out -- hopefully, with the fuller, five-hour restoration, and Coppola's music on one track, with a reconstruction of the original music on another (and perhaps Gillian Anderson has a score of her own to share?) -- you'll owe it to yourself, as a student of Film, to see it, over and over again.


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