A massive six-hour biopic of Napoleon, tracing his career from his schooldays, 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.
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For the accumulating pages on the history of this burgeoning media form, it was a pivotal turning point, a new chapter in an ever-changing text. But it was never to be again. Sound had spoken, and people were listening.
This a truly epic film that transcends the cinema. Gance made Griffith look like a hack with this masterpiece and gave Eisenstein a run for his money. The editing and camerawork is unlike anything I have seen in the cinema, proving that the silent film era was the wholly original period of filmmaking and the power of the moving image can really move. This needs to be seen on the big screen to catch the grandeur.
Quite possibly the most moving experience of my life--inside or outside of a theater. Mind-boggling. Once you see it, it readjusts your entire outlook on cinema history, and you can't possibly imagine your life without it. Vivid, enthralling, riveting, jaw-dropping...any superlative you care to name. And then double it.
I watched the four hour Coppola version. It was incredible. DT's comment about this film sums it up nicely, you do get the feeling that there was a madman behind the camera. A must-see for every movie lover.
A single image commanded me to see Abel Gance's silent epic. The trailer for the 2016 re-release features an outstanding wide shot of a cloaked rider and his steed galloping across a hilltop, silhouetted against the shimmering, moonlit sea. Seeing this film with a live orchestral score was one of the most memorable cinematic experiences I've ever had.
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It's a fascinating character study of an extraordinarily compelling individual. Napoleon was a man who took control and waged war, not against the Spanish, Russians or Italians, but against an indeterministic, malevolent universe. Like an obsessive film director, Napoleon tamed his surroundings, forcing the cosmos to bow to his own singular vision. Who needs Kubrick if you've already got this film?
Stunning movie, technologically brilliant for its time, with steam operated cameras on horseback, rapid fire editing that would be hard to do on an Avid, cameras moving on ropes in storms and hand held. The final 3 camera split screen ending must be seen to be believed.
The pure dedication by Gance and Dieudonné to the story of Napoleon is evident and makes it about as perfect as it could be. At five and a half hours it is not for those short of patience, but honestly, I found it utterly fascinating even before I got to see it fully restored (the restoration mind boggling). French expressive cinema at its best.