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I admit I found it a little hard to stomach Christian Clavier
(Jacquouille la Fripouille from « Les Visiteurs » and Astérix from the
Astérix films) as Napoléon, especially when that role has been
interpreted in English by the likes of Marlon Brando, Charles Boyer,
Herbert Lom and Rod Steiger and in French, by the likes of Albert
Dieudonné, Daniel Gélin, Sacha Guitry, Raymond Pellegrin and Jean-Louis
Barrault. Because of all those famous precedents, one has come to
expect in the role a kind of forceful but graceful personality. Clavier
plays him a little bit on the educated warthog side, but that's OK
because so did Marlon Brando.
IMDb users seem to hate this TV movie for all the wrong reasons. It can't be faulted for historical accuracy. There is every indication that almost every single word spoken in this script was actually said by the protagonists. And here is at least one English-language movie that doesn't show Napoléon's soldiers taking aim at the Sphinx's nose for target practice (an English myth). The sets and costumes are magnificent. The action is a little simplified for my taste but it allows the viewer a more unencumbered comprehension of the timeline. I have seen many French movies that naturally expect their French audience to know all the dates and the battles by heart and take it from there, so to speak. I am sure that the DVD version, which is longer, will reconcile many critics with scenes that seemed a little too short on TV.
I only noticed two major goofs in the whole four hours. John Malkovitch seems to think he is too great an actor to accept suggestions as to the pronunciation of French names, either from his co-stars or from a French coach, which must be responsible for his coasting through every possible phonetic permutation of the words 'Duc d'Enghien' in the course of an hour, some of them successful. Also, the same character warns Joséphine not to go to Poland before Napoléon has even met Marie Waleska, which is mysterious indeed. Did he actually know they would meet and fall in love?
But, all in all, it is a magnificent effort in a TV series, one that is not without its artistic and poetic merits.
On the plus side: the costumes and interiors are magnificent, Isabella
Rossellini is good as Josephine, the historical events depicted are
presented accurately, and the series gets better as it goes along
(don't give up after the muddled first episode!).
On the minus side: we never really get a feel for what Napoleon actually stood for or why and how he was such a military genius, the film dwells on his private life when it could be dealing with the huge social and political issues of the time, the actors playing some of the secondary characters are laughably bad (Murat, Ney, Marie-Louise), and one has to strain to hear the dialogue (due to the foreign accents, background noise and music).
As for Christian Clavier, it's amazing how the comments on his performance stretch from "brilliant" to "trash." My own view is that he was off the mark as the younger Napoleon, but as the mature Napoleon had basically the right look and plenty of gravitas.
A good contribution to the body of film about the Emperor but also full of flaws.
As an American I was not familiar with French actor Christian Clavier, but I was pleasantly surprised at his characterization of Napoleon. M. Clavier has the confidence and presence to personify a historical character of amazing charisma. I look forward to seeing him as Asterix! As for the overall production, it was very well-done and was a fair summary of a life that encompassed unimaginable highs and lows.
Excellent rendition chronicling Napoleons life. As usual Malkovich & Gerard Depardeau were magnificent in their roles and Heino Ferch was a breath of fresh air.Christian Clavier brought such a human & at times Humane quality to Napoleon.
It is probably pointless recommending or not recommending this series
as there are two types of people that are going to buy this: The
Napoleon nuts like me and the period drama people. The latter will be
in their element as the domestic sets are both lavish and authentic.
There are also some remarkable likenesses such as Josephine, Murat and
On first viewing I was left a little cold. I thought that at last a substantial amount of time had been allocated to this, perhaps the greatest of all individual subjects. However, if there is one thing that any expert on the subject will tell you, it is that there is no way that you can even begin to condense this subject into 60 hours, let alone 6. The worst mistake that this film makes is attempting to replicate the battles themselves. The camera angles pan across large expanses revealing (at best) eight or nine hundred extras. All this whilst regular references are made to 20,000 losses on each side (Austerlitz, Eylau, Essling and especially Waterloo). Sometimes, it is almost laughable and cheapens the rest of the film. The makers would have been much better off by excluding any military action and just leaving it to innuendo after all, Borodino is just referred to by Caulencourt when in Moscow conversing with Murat.. Thank God they didn't try to replicate that terrible battle! So, the plus points: Napoleon: At first I thought that Clavier was miles off the mark. If, like me you have seen and were bowled over by Rod Steiger's rendition in Waterloo then this will get some getting used to. After all, Napoleon is a red-blooded Corsican genius, capable of flying off the handle at any time, exhausting his counterparts and friends alike. Not in this version. Yet, Clavier has one saving grace. He introduces a measured, human approach that we know Napoleon had to have had from time to time. Almost schizophrenic some might say (Megalomania is the preferred terminology). I don't prefer his interpretation of Napoleon's to Steiger, but it is warmer if not necessarily more Corsican. If we could introduce this to Steiger's approach you may have the perfect Napoleon.
The relationship between Napoleon and Josephine is also one of the better points of this series. Clavier's in-love out-of-love relationship is perfectly handled without the usual mushiness. Here is a relationship based on love, intensity, necessity and ultimately friendship and loss.
Finally, Caulencourt is dealt with in some depth, as is Fauche, Murat and Talleyrand. But where is Berthier, Bessieres, Augereau, Davout and Ney (who suddenly appears towards the end despite his Russian campaign heroics)? Holes? Yes. But unless we get someone with $500,000,000 willing to approach this subject with the endeavour it deserves then we are left with this kind of product. So overall, not too bad. Vive l'Emperor!
I was never interested in Napoleon. Although I visited the Louvre I didn't
go to see Napoleon's chambers, which are on display there. I would have
never watched this series if it wasn't for the actors in it. And now, after
six hours of Napoleon and nothing but Napoleon, I actually got interested in
the chap and think about reading a biography. And I'm sure this is down to
the excellent performance of Christian Clavier. Simple as
Okay, his English could be a tiny bit better, agreed, but I rather get used to an accented English than to a bad performance by English native speakers. Christian Clavier is truly an excellent actor, although he might be best known (in France) for his parts in very silly comedies. If he only decided to take more "serious" parts, maybe more people would notice what a fantastic talent he has. What he can express just with his eyes is quite stunning. But that may be a female point of view...
The other well known actors had, of course, smaller parts, in comparison. But none of them was miscast. And I especially liked how actors from different countries once again worked together. This as well is what the European idea is about.
One of the few things I didn't like were the flashbacks at the end. They were completely out of place and should be cut out. They don't make sense at all at the end of the film.
And a last remark about Monsieur Clavier's language skills: The first way he said "Ich liebe dich" got me guffawing, the second way he made my heart melt. Maybe he should think about doing a film in German...?
This series, consisting (in Germany) of 4 parts, tells the story of the
important figure in French history, Napoléon Bonaparte whose remarkable
career started as a mere officer in an artillery regiment. The film
especially on Napoléon's (C. Clavier) relationship to his early love,
Josephine, who is quite beautiful but also some years older than Napoléon.
Indeed, most of the film is centered largerly around the numerous affairs
and relationships of the Emperor, who seeks an heir but also to strenghten
the french influence in Europe.
There are some quite fascinating battle-scenes, although, for a 42 million
Euro project, one might say they could've been done better. Obviously most
of the money has been spent on the wonderful costumes, and, naturally, on
the prominent cast, which includes some famous European, as well as
Generally, if you are interested in such kind of movies and have a certain knowledge of the historical facts, "Napoléon" is absolutely recommendable. It might have some flaws, and some historical facts may be, to the normally educated, not clear, but then, it's only a TV movie. And it's really rather enjoyable, bringing a fascinating period of European history to life.
in my opinion, the major flaw of this production is that it doesn't aim
properly. there is no way to capture the entire napoleonic era, not in 6
hours and not in 60 hours. the best angle is to pick one topic and focus
it. picking napoleon is of course the most natural thing to do. focusing
his character alone is slightly more problematic. it could've been done
better if the character wasn't written so flatly - there is a lot of
conflict inside him considering his origin, his position and the many
pressures from all sides that he constantly struggles against, quite
successfully at times. none of that is shown. we get a cardboard figure,
with many good points missing (like the jena battle, where his victory was
sidelined by one of his marshals' success at the same time in auerstadt,
napoleon's dilemma regarding the man), many interesting characters missing
or lacking depth (massena, bernadot, ney) and other faults. the small
of the massive battles is a shame, also, although judging from other
comments here, the DVD version could have them more on the
all in all, it could've been better. TV movies are judged less harshly then "real" movies. maybe if the creators where put more to the test, this work could've achieved a higher standard.
Not all movies have the BEST graphics, and maybe this one didn't have
graphics that would blow you away, but that wasn't really the point, and
looked fine, to me.
I caught part of this on A&E, recently. I watched a few minutes, then turned the channel to watch a regular show. I came back to it, and watched the end of the first half. The next day, I ran into the second part. I missed quite a bit, but watched the last hour, or so. I started craving the rest of it. I got online and did a search, found it was out on DVD, and made a trip to my local video retailer. I got the 3-DVD set and have since made a website devoted to Christian Clavier because I thought he did a wonderful job, and this movie made me a fan almost instantly. I've always liked Isabella Rossellini, and her role as Josephine was very convincing.
I've always been a fan of Napoleon movies, and I've seen several, but this one has to be the best. The interaction between Napoleon and Josephine and the action during the war scenes had me on the edge of my seat. Most people know how the end turned out, but that didn't stop me from thinking that things would be different.
I highly recommend this movie, in DVD format for the "making of" section. I wish I had watched this in high school because I would have learned quite a bit.
Go watch this movie!
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
With an exceptional performance by Clavier, and the rest of the
Napoleon cast, this multi-million dollar miniseries is highly
underrated. It depicts Napoleon's life well for such a short lifespan,
but there are a few mistakes that accompany the film.
First, Malkovich wasn't the best choice to play the renowned diplomat Talleyrand. Malkovich portrays him in a rather bland and placid manner, and the director shows him as a bit of a weakling, whereas Talleyrand was one of the most powerful men in all Europe -- even after Napoleon's defeat.
Second, Alain Doutey as Marshal Ney... not as enthusiastic as the real Marshal Ney would have been. His famous line, repeated in the film, was said unenthusiastic and without spirit.
Simoneau would have done better had he shown elements of the Duke of Wellington to contrast the two military leaders... we definitely didn't really want to see the blubbering Louis XVIII, or the King/Prince of Spain, for that matter.
Other than that however, the rest of the performances were fantastic. Josephine, Caulaincourt, Caroline Bonaparte, Murat -- and of course, the Emperor Napoleon, were all shown true to form.
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