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. —IMDb
Abel Gance was the major figure among directors in 1920s French film, and among the most ambitious visionaries of the silent cinema. Fueled by literary ambitions from childhood, Gance began working as an actor at the age of 19, with the ambition of breaking into playwriting. In 1909, Gance managed to get a job writing movie scenarios for Gaumont and, by 1911, was directing them. None of Gance’s earliest films survive, but his first viewable effort demonstrates that he was already pioneering the use of unusual visual effects. In the short La Folie du Docteur Tube (1915), Gance uses an anamorphic lens to illustrate the story of a mad doctor who uses a ray to twist everyday objects and people out of shape. Gance gained his first good notices from critics with Mater Dolorosa (1917), a genuine tragedy without a “happy ending,” relatively rare in French cinema of the day. With this film, Gance began to use editing and camerawork to project the interior thoughts of his characters.
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Just booked to see this at a cinema on 30th November with a live orchestra, very excited!
In our annual poll, we pair our favorite new films of 2012 with older films seen in the same year to create fantastic double features.
A pair of stunning giant posters for Dreyer’s masterpiece, and other over-sized posters by the artist René Péron.
The San Francisco Silent Film Festival presents Kevin Brownlow’s restoration four times. And that may very well be it for quite some time.
Also: David Cronenberg’s TV series. Trailer for the restored Napoleon.
80 years of posters for Abel Gance’s lost-and-found epic masterpiece.
Marco de Gastyne’s rival Joan of Arc movie hit theaters the year after Dreyer’s, and triumphed. But who remembers it now?
Also: The lavishly illustrated new book, Scorsese on Scorsese, and Weegee in Hollywood.