I am IN!!!!!
I like to think I am a restrained man when it comes to splurges, but this one….
Money be damned, this is a one-in-a-lifer! San Francisco here I coooome……
Orchestra seat (aisle) on Sunday March 25, 2012…..oh boy.
To have seen the Coppola cut 30 years ago, and now the Brownlow one with Davis conducting…my heart is beating already.
Now I have to figure out all the rest (I’ve never been to SF)
But I know seat 101 DD is waiting for me……
one of us! one of us! one of us!
Man, you guys are getting me excited! And I’ve never been overly interested in either “Napoleon” or Gance. But it does seem like a once in a lifetime chance and a really unique screening. Oh well. Too bad this event didn’t happen ten or so years ago. I grew up in the Bay Area. Enjoy!
Tickets are $52-150…but with the supply of screenings and live orchestral music, I think this is actually reasonable.
I’m on the East coast, but will definitely try to figure out how (not if) I’ll manage this in my schedule.
Unless there’s a possibility of a future screening in NY?
A film that makes your heart beat faster.
Was thinking about heading to the West Coast for this but timing and $$ are preventing it. Sounds amazing, though.
Saw it yesterday. I’ll go ahead and just call it the greatest movie-going experience of my life. The full orchestra, the big screen, and the real Polyvision, and the new (to me) footage that adds subplots and changes characterization (the film has a very curious uncertain attitude about Josephine de Beauharnais, which the Coppola version didn’t have at all.
If you are in the Continental U.S., you really can’t miss this. Sell that spare kidney. You’ve got blood you’re not using. Pimp whatever you’ve got to pimp. Just save those eyes — this movie is what they were made for.
Thanks for the report, Roscoe. How did the audience like it, do you think? I’m heading there next weekend to see it.
Daniel — the audience went wild, just wild at the end. There was applause after certain spectacular sections, especially the snowball fight and the great Double Storm section. I heard one person in the lobby afterward, evidently discussing someone else’s opinion, who said he couldn’t respect the opinion of anyone who referred to Napoleon as Kitsch.
I’ll try to put something down about it. Daniel, enjoy. You’ve got a real treat ahead of you. Be ready to sprint up the aisles at the intermissions, the lines in the bathroom get very very very long indeed. And keep an eye on your watch — there’s a schedule in the program, and they stick to it religiously. When that voice comes over the loudspeaker saying there are only five minutes until the film begins, they bloody well mean it — get your ass back to your seat.
So I just looked, and my library system actually has this film on VHS. Would you suggest seeing it like that or not because it sounds like it’s something that should be seen on the big screen.
By all means check it out on VHS, if that’s your only option, and it looks like it will be for the vast majority of folks. Enough of the great stuff is there to make it worthwhile.
Hoping this gets released on video or something. Have wanted to see it since I was twelve.
Don’t hold your breath for the DVD. The cost of HD-transferring/cleaning 5-1/2 hours of film plus recording the same number of hours of score (with a symphony orchestra) have been cited as the main reasons why some millionaire would have to step up and sponsor this. I also wonder about international rights, given the battle with Coppola and his version.
You never say never….but….
Anyway, recovering from an amazing week-end in SF and being one of the members of the “30-year-club” who saw the Coppola in around ‘81, this was an amazing pleasure adding this “book-end” screening of Brownlow’s long version to the US release.
The Paramount Theatre is overwhelming outside and in. Incredible design runs riot as your eyes scan the walls and ceiling while your jaw drags on the floor. Here is but one detail; I think of them as “The Egyptian Chorus Line”:
The film just gets better with more material; it doesn’t feel like padding at all, and the 5-1/2 hours seem downright reasonable when you leave. My thought was: “It really couldn’t be any shorter, could it? What would you take out?”
The humor takes you aback, some great zingers along the way that had the audience laughing out loud.
We also get what perhaps is filmdom’s first crazy groupie, in the person of little Violine, Josephine’s maid, who has built a small shrine to Napoleon in a cupboard.
When Josephine catches the girl in the act of praying, Violine (and the audience) expect the worst, but Gance’s humanity turns the concusion of the scene into something that feels both real and deeply moving.
I defy anyone to sit in that palace of a theatre, with the Triptych going in the French colors and the music thundering from the pit, and not feel a sense of utter exhilaration and magic.
If only Gance could have made all three films…..he would have achieved something virtually impossible: he would have made Erich Von Stroheim seem almost normal by comparison :-)
I am quite in debt as I write this, and I couldn’t be happier about it. I got far more than my money’s worth and I wouldn’t have missed it for the world.
My evening was crowned as I finally got the chance (after decades) to shake hands with Professor Brownlow and to tell him “thank you” for the inspiration “The Parade’s Gone By” gave me as a teen.
Coppola DO THIS FOR YOUR LEGACY!!
I’ve got two tickets to paradise
I’ve got one.
Claus, nice post, thanks for those photos.
I’ll agree about the “new” material (new to us, anyway, not in the Coppola version material). I kept spotting new stuff, sometimes even a single shot. There’s one in particular that I was most impressed by, a single extended shot of Robespierre listening to the crowds singing La Marseillaise, and he’s clearly not happy about what he’s hearing, it was beautifully done and I’d give a lot to see it again. And little Violine was very interesting, even if she did rather bring the film to a halt sometimes — but that remarkable moment when Josephine discovers her praying at the little Napoleon Altar she has constructed, that extended “hand held looking” p.o.v. shot really knocked me out.
Speaking of Josephine — I was very surprised by the way she is characterized in this version. That title refers to her as being “amoral” with “easy manners.” She’s being kept by the leader of the Convention, Barras, and her marriage to Napoleon is presented as a piece of political gamesplaying rather than anything like a love match on her part. She’s clearly at something of a loss about what to do with him personally, even admitting that she’s afraid of him.
“What could you take out?” you ask. Well, I’ll cop to finding the Big Chase Through Corsica to be a bit of an ordeal, frankly. Likewise the Siege of Toulon which I couldn’t make head or tail of. At one point Napoleon ordered some cannons to be turned around and I just had no idea of what the hell he was talking about. Of course, my disorientation could well be part of Gance’s plan, but it didn’t feel that way. And maybe I just got lost and missed something, of course.
But there’s no denying the brilliance of the film’s best sequences. That snowball fight is pure fucking genius, I don’t see how that can be denied or even disagreed with, likewise the great Marseillaise scene. And the Double Storm is just astonishing.
I was particularly taken with the really high quality of the performances this time out. I’d always found the film to be more of a technical exercise than anything else, with performances being on a lower level of importance, and I certainly came around on that score. Dieudonne in particular impressed me this time, there’s a lot more to that performance than I’d ever gotten before. I’m always taken with Van Daele’s Robespierre, and Koubitzky’s Danton and Artaud’s Marat. Even Gance himself as St. Just — the man was a star, I can never take my eyes off him, even in long shot he dominates the image. And Roudenko’s performance as young Napoleon is brilliant — I defy you not to be moved in those last moments at Brienne.
I’m still overwhelmed. I don’t want to let this go. Doesn’t anyone have any blackmailable material on Spielberg or someone to get them to pony up some of their vast cash to make this astonishing masterwork more accessible?
NAPOLEON is the best motion picture I have ever seen. The experience was so incredibly vindicating for me, yet I still couldn’t help continuously shaking my head in utter disbelief while thinking of all the priceless masterworks buried under the sand of time. Are they lost forever? In this strange new digital age it is now especially imperative that we learn more from the past as we are so enabled. We owe the Historian a great deal for giving us this past, and in turn we must give him the future.
This could be the cinematic equivalent of the great pyramids. if we don’t study it, it could be completely obscured and lost for future generations.
I’ve posted my thoughts on the Oakland screening to my blog if anyone wants to take a look. I hope you enjoy!
Very perceptive and enjoyable reading. I fully agree about the boundless enthusiasm of Gance’s film-making, and also how the film sweeps all the…well, “petty” wouldn’t really be the word….conflicts of dictatorship under the rug in pursuit of Napoleon the God. The brilliance of the film is precisely that you cheer him on, yet come out going: “wait a minute….”
I think it can be argued that one of the hallmarks of art is that it can make your mind be in two places at once, reality being the lesser champion as long as the illusion is as persuasive as what Gance delivered here.
There are moments, images in that film that, once seen, you never forget.
For American cinephiles there’s an indisputable reason to see “Napoleon” now: film. “This print will probably never be seen again in the United States,” Mr. Harris said, given that a digital restoration is under way. (Version 21?) “Projectors are going away,” he said and, alas, so too is film. Mr. Harris agreed with the characterization of the festival screenings as a kind of a test run for the digital restoration, which suggests that he and Zoetrope have plans for future exploitation, including, maybe, a DVD and Blu-ray.
Yes, one must keep in mind the sad phasing out of film….still, it would be amazing if this print makes it to Blu-Ray with the Davis score.
NAPOLEON was, of course, only the first of a planned series of films that would examine Napoleon’s entire life. He did plan on dealing with the dictatorship issue, and the ways in which Napoleon’s ideals fell apart.
Those six films would have been the biggest film project to date…if he stuck to the same run times, the final project would have been, what, 35-40 hours long…the mind boggles.
Claus, regarding your mind being in two places at once. Agreed! The next day my friend and I went to the Legion of Honor and we had similar feelings looking at all the Christian iconography on display.
Please note that the post below replaces the one I posted months back, I asked that it be removed because it had some irrelevant information in it. Here’s the rest of the posting, fwiw:
The below was sent by the SF Silent Film Festival in re: the upcoming screenings of NAPOLEON — check it out:
EVERYTHING YOU ALWAYS WANTED TO KNOW
(THE SILENT MASTERPIECE, THAT IS)
People have been contacting us from all across the U.S. and even from overseas, looking for details about San Francisco Silent Film Festival’s monumental presentation of Abel Gance’s NAPOLEON at the Oakland Paramount in March. So we’ve put together some answers that we hope will shed light on your many questions about the event, the film itself, and how to make arrangements for the best NAPOLEON experience possible. For even more information beyond these FAQs – including trailer, videos, and much more – visit the new dedicated NAPOLEON page on our website. And check out the current issue of Vanity Fair (the Hollywood Issue), with an article by Martin Scorsese on Kevin Brownlow and SFSFF’s NAPOLEON event!
FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS
I saw this at Radio City Music Hall in 1981 and it was the greatest film experience of my life. Francis Ford Coppola’s father, Carmine Coppola, wrote the music and conducted the orchestra. How will the Oakland screenings be different?
The version presented by Mr. Coppola at Radio City and later around the country was just under 4 hours. In the intervening 30 years, Kevin Brownlow and Patrick Stanbury’s Photoplay Productions and the BFI have restored Gance’s NAPOLEON to a more complete 5 1/2 hours and have upgraded the visual quality of much of the film.
The Photoplay/BFI restoration – a unique 35mm print – also uses authentic dye-bath techniques to re-create the color tinting and toning that enhanced the film on its original release, giving a vividness to the image as never before experienced in this country.
And a major new component for American audiences is the monumental score created by legendary composer Carl Davis. NAPOLEON has not been presented here with an orchestral score of any kind in nearly 30 years.
It can’t just be these four performances in Oakland. This has got be leading up to something… a national concert tour perhaps?
No, these four performances at Oakland’s glorious Paramount Theatre are it. No plans are being made to present the restored NAPOLEON in any other American city. The cost and technical challenges are just too daunting for most venues – and the sheer size of the three-screen Polyvision ending can be duplicated in only a handful of theatres. The technical requirements for presenting Polyvision alone-not to mention the enormous cost-make this something no one in the U.S. has been willing to tackle until now.
To do this elsewhere, Carl Davis would also have to work with a different symphony orchestra in every city – that’s at least four solid days of rehearsal. And don’t forget that each performance requires 5 1/2 hours of continuous music – a grueling schedule for any orchestra or conductor.
What is Polyvision? And what are the technical requirements?
Polyvision was one of Abel Gance’s greatest innovations: for NAPOLEON’s finale, the screen dramatically expands to three times its normal width, for both panoramic views and montages of images. There has not been anything like it since: even the similar American process Cinerama, first presented 25 years later, never made such virtuosic use of its three screens.
To present Polyvision at the Oakland Paramount, three projection booths equipped with three perfectly-synchronized projectors must be specially installed, along with a purpose-built three-panel screen, which will fill the width of the auditorium. These technical requirements can only be handled by top technicians and a 3-person team from Boston Light & Sound is being specially brought in for the Paramount’s installation.
Ok, so it’s only in Oakland… But it’s being presented by the San Francisco Silent Film Festival. Why not San Francisco itself? Why not the Castro Theatre? That’s a great movie palace.
Indeed it is: it’s where the San Francisco Silent Film Festival holds its annual festival in July. But it’s NOT BIG ENOUGH for NAPOLEON! The Castro has no orchestra pit and not enough floor space to accommodate a 48-piece orchestra; it has 1,400 seats compared to the Paramount’s 3,000; and, perhaps most important, its proscenium is way too small for the Polyvision ending.
The Paramount, perhaps the most beautiful Art Deco movie palace in the world, is the only theater in the Bay Area that’s completely suitable for this huge event. It’s easily reachable by all means of public transit and well worth the trip in itself.
So just how do we get there?
The Oakland Paramount is located at 2025 Broadway between 20th and 21st Streets in downtown Oakland. The Paramount is steps away from the 19th Street BART Station. To plan your trip on public transportation, visit BART or 511.org. For driving directions to the Paramount, please visit Driving Directions. There are several major parking facilities located near the Paramount. Visit Paramount for a map of the area.
The Bay Area is accessible to three major airports, Oakland International (OAK), San Francisco International (SFO), and San Jose International (SJC) . And out-of-towners can also visit Oakland.com for travel options.
We’re coming in from out of town. Where should we stay?
Waterfront Hotel in Oakland’s lovely Jack London Square is the official hotel sponsor for NAPOLEON. The Waterfront is offering discounted rates to NAPOLEON attendees. Visit their website for accommodation details and reservations. To receive the discounted rates, enter the promo code PARAMOUNT2012 when making your reservation.
For information on other accommodations, including partner hotels in San Francisco, please visit our Event Information page. Downtown San Francisco is less than a 20-minute BART (Bay Area Rapid Transit) ride away from the Paramount Theatre.
For additional questions about travel and accommodations, contact Lucia Pier at email@example.com or 415-777-4908 x1.
Hasn’t this been presented with Carl Davis’ score in Europe?
Yes, but the challenges are the same there and performances have been rare events. The restored NAPOLEON was last presented in 2004 at the Royal Festival Hall in London.
Has the restored version ever been on television or video?
No, the 5 1/2 hour version with Carl Davis’ score has never been released on television or video anywhere in the world. The 4-hour version with the Coppola score has been shown on television in the U.S. and was released on VHS and laserdisc, but never on DVD in this country.
But will there be a DVD and BluRay release of the restored version in the near future?
No. The cost of recording the 5 1/2 hour Carl Davis score is prohibitively expensive for the DVD/BluRay market… and of course you wouldn’t have the dramatic Polyvision finale that you’ll experience in the theater. The triptych would merely be letterboxed onto your television – no matter how big it is.
TCM is the event’s “Official Media Sponsor.” Does that mean it will be shown on TCM soon?
No, for the same reasons stated above and for other more complicated rights issues. However, TCM recognizes the importance of this event and is proud to support it.
It’s 5 1/2 hours long? When do we eat?
All four performances begin at 1:30 in the afternoon. There will be three intermissions, including a 1 hour, 45-minute dinner break at 5:00 pm. A number of local restaurants are planning special NAPOLEON menus. Go to our Event Information page for further details.
I love the poster. Can I buy one?
Yes! The SFSFF’s NAPOLEON poster, created especially for the San Francisco Silent Film Festival by the well-known illustrator Paul Davis, will be available for sale at the Paramount on performance days. We are also offering them for sale online by mail order prior to the event. Go to SilentFilm.org to order yours today.
Are there any other events planned around the screenings?
Yes, on Friday, March 30, Kevin Brownlow will give an illustrated talk on his 5-decade crusade to restore NAPOLEON at the Pacific Film Archive in Berkeley (visit PFA for more information).
The SFSFF is also holding a gala dinner – to be catered by a local celebrity chef — in the magnificent grand lobby of the Paramount Theatre on Friday, March 23. Kevin Brownlow, Patrick Stanbury, Carl Davis, the Consul General of France, and other special guests will be attending. Visit SilentFilm.org for more information about the dinner and how you can support SFSFF.
Can I still get tickets?
Yes, but you better hurry. People are coming in from all over the world for this event and tickets are going fast. But there are still seats available for all four performances. Tickets can be purchased at the Paramount Oakland box office or online at SilentFilm.org.
But the tickets must be expensive, right?
Not for a music and film event of this magnitude. Tickets range from $45 to $120… and there are no bad seats. And by becoming a member of the San Francisco Silent Film Festival, you can purchase greatly discounted tickets.
So why is the San Francisco Silent Film Festival doing this?
Why climb Mount Everest? Someone had to take it on!
Silent Film Festival | 833 Market Street, Suite 812 | San Francisco | CA | 94103
We miss you NAPOLEON
Wish I was there.
Criterion needs to release this!