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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.

Director:

Abel Gance

Writer:

Abel Gance
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Cast

Cast overview, first billed only:
Albert Dieudonné ... Napoléon Bonaparte
Vladimir Roudenko Vladimir Roudenko ... Napoléon Bonaparte enfant
Edmond Van Daële ... Maximilien Robespierre
Alexandre Koubitzky Alexandre Koubitzky ... Georges-Jacques Danton
Antonin Artaud ... Jean-Paul Marat
Abel Gance ... Louis Saint-Just
Gina Manès ... Joséphine de Beauharnais
Suzanne Bianchetti ... La reine Marie-Antoinette
Marguerite Gance Marguerite Gance ... Charlotte Corday
Yvette Dieudonné Yvette Dieudonné ... Élisa Bonaparte
Philippe Hériat Philippe Hériat ... Antonio Salicetti
Pierre Batcheff ... Le général Lazare Hoche
Eugénie Buffet Eugénie Buffet ... Laetizia Bonaparte
Acho Chakatouny Acho Chakatouny ... Pozzo di Borgo
Nicolas Koline 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]


Certificate:

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Parents Guide:

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Details

Country:

France

Release Date:

17 February 1929 (USA) See more »

Also Known As:

Abel Gance's Napoleon See more »

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Box Office

Gross USA:

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

Company Credits

Show more on IMDbPro »

Technical Specs

Runtime:

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

Sound Mix:

Dolby (1981 re-release)| Mono | Silent

Color:

Black and White | Black and White (tinted) (some sequences)

Aspect Ratio:

1.33 : 1
See full technical specs »
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Did You Know?

Trivia

Some footage was shot in dual-strip 35mm 3-D format, though this wasn't included in the final release print nor any subsequent re-release version. Sources suggest this footage still exists. See more »

Goofs

The French troops attacking Toulon and the Army of Italy use flags with triangles in corners, the pattern introduced in 1804. In 1793, the pattern was based around a large central cross with the regimental number surrounded by a wreath, with different patterns and colours in the four corners (one flag similar to this is seen carried by the Army of Italy). See more »

Alternate Versions

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 composer of the Godfather scores) 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 Napoloen, 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 perfomances went ahead with Davis' score being used, although the dispute remains unresolved. It is uncertain whether Davis' score will ever be heard again while the dispute remains ongoing. See more »

Connections

Referenced in Final Fantasy Tactics Advance (2003) 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)
See more »

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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 Nazi_Fighter_DavidSee 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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