Wednesday, September 19, 2007


Napoleon directed by Abel Gance, is an epic (almost 4 hours in its reconstructed and shortened form) 1927 silent film. There is an intermission at the 2 hour mark. I had never heard of it before I ran across the book 1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die. [Oops, The Elder Son says he told me about this film on numerous occasions but received a cool response from me: "A 4-hour silent? Me? You gotta be kidding! I'd just go to sleep during it." My tastes must have matured over the years. Apologies, Elder Son.] The movie takes Napoleon from his days as a school boy winning battles on the playground to his appointment as a general leading the French army into Italy. It was intended to be the first installment in a series, but the other films were never made. It lost the Oscar Award to The Jazz Singer.

Its recent copyright history is an ugly thing, and you can read about it in the wikipedia entry and the links found there and in the links at this BoingBoing story. In 1981 Carmine Coppola composed a score for a reconstruction of the film and screenings of the movie were sped up to match the sound speed. This is the only version available in this country. The BFI version uses the original film speed and a different musical accompaniment. The film itself has no sound, being a "silent" film.

[The google video of the film that I had embedded here is no longer available, and I can't find it online now.]

Was that a hurdy gurdy I saw right after the intermission at about 2:02:49?

At about 3:34 I see the triptych and understand something of the effect this would have had when seen in a theater on a big screen.


1001Flicks has a review.

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