Napoléon Bonaparte (1935) Poster

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Great film given voices
donelan-124 November 2006
Abel Gance's masterpiece, Napoleon, was made in 1927 - towards the end of the silent film era. It is over five hours long, and some sections require three synchronized projectors and three screens for theatrical presentation. I saw it many years ago in the last San Francisco theater equipped to show it as intended, with Paul Honegger's original score played on a giant theater organ which could simulate the sounds of an entire orchestra (including drums). The only videotape edition (which I have), released by Coppola in 1989 with a score by his father, is long out of print, and a DVD issue is reportedly prevented by legal complications. But Gance's 1934 re-edit would make a perfect DVD. It would easily fit on one disk, is designed for a single screen, and has voices dubbed in by the original actors. The lip synch is perfect, because Gance made the actors in the silent version speak their lines (perhaps anticipating the advent of sound). While we can hope that the 1927 version eventually makes it to DVD, the 1934 film stands on its own as one of the greatest historical films ever made.
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A movie that movie directors should see
mccgarden17 December 2007
I have been entranced with movie since I saw it as its premier in Sacramento in 1983. It is a silent movie with titles, and a musical score. As I recall in Sacramento, a live piano player was provided. I believe this movie to be a fore-runner of current filming techniques. I understand that the director filmed part of it while on horseback and swinging the cameras above his head tied to a rope. The movie does not transfer to television well, as the grand final scene required more than one screen, in order to give the theater audiences a three dimension effect in the grand conclusion. On a television set, the multiple screen effect is like 3 post cards in a row on the screen. I had trouble getting used to the actors in their stiff clothes, but after awhile it was fine. We do get used to current actors being very good looking. I did not think some of the costumes were quite correct, particularly those of Josephine who was fond of wearing sort of see-through clothing, but maybe that would have been too racy for 1930 audiences.
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