7.5/10
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56 user 35 critic

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:
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Vladimir Roudenko ...
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Alexandre Koubitzky ...
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Suzanne Bianchetti ...
Marguerite Gance ...
Yvette Dieudonné ...
Élisa Bonaparte
Philippe Hériat ...
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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>

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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) | (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

A copyright dispute over which music soundtrack should be performed with "Napoleon" exists between Zoetrope Studios/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 (apparently for the American market) by Carmine Coppola (Francis' father) and another (apparently 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 five-hour-plus 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 four-hour 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 Nazi propaganda minister Joseph 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 »

Goofs

When Charlotte Corday assassinates Marat, the position of the knife and Marat's clothing change between shots. See more »

Connections

Edited into Spisok korabley (2008) 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…

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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