View Full Version : Abel Gance's NAPOLEON (1927)

12-13-2011, 01:16 PM
With the news of this silent Epic classic being screened next March in Oakland California COMPLETELY RESTORED, at 5 and a half hours, I thought it was appropriate to watch my VHS copy and post about it.

It is a truly Marvelous work of cinema.
Stanley Kubrick called it crude, and didn't like it all that much, but he was also a film director. He could see how it could be much better, indeed, he was fascinated with Napoleon Bonaparte and was working on making "the greatest film never made" when he had to ditch it due to logistics and the inconvenient appearance of Rod Steiger as the French Emperor in Waterloo.
Abel Gance's silent opus is the only real epic attempt at Napoleon's bio we have. It's odd that Napoleon hasn't been given a slew of cinematic treatments. Dracula has, and he's complete fiction!
Indeed, Napoleon said that his life would've made a good book. Kubrick noted that "had he known about movies, he would've said movie".

Abel Gance had some serious ambition. This was supposed to be a 6-parter, a LARGE CANVAS.
When you realize that this film only covers Napoleon from his youth at Brienne college to the 1796 victory in the Italian campaign, you kind of wish they had the resources to make the whole film.
Because what we have here is quite good for it's time.
A lot of time and effort and care went into this production. It's very obvious to film students. Costumes, stagings, crowd scenes, action-packed horse chases, battles, charges with flags, storms at sea, dramatic speeches and scenarios in the convention hall and Assembly, the full spirit of the French Revolution was tried to be caught on camera. It's an admirable job here, with interesting characters. Probably nowhere near their real-life counterparts, but this is a movie. It's a dramatization or imagining of what actually took place, based on historical records.

12-13-2011, 01:35 PM
Kevin Brownlow restored the version I have on VHS tapes (just shy of 4 hours) and he has restored the new 5 hour+ version that will appear in Oakland in March 2012. His involvement is essential and very interesting- he's had a long & great relationship with this film. From buying 2 reels from it on the street (paid for by his mother- he dedicates his book on the film to her) to restoring the Polyvision/russian montage multi-layered images/visuals- he's the main Champion of this film for all times.
And so is Francis Ford Coppola, who "presented" this film at Telluride in 1981, with his father doing the live musical score, and Abel Gance himself in attendance.
What a night that would have been.
Why doesn't someone invent a time machine?
Claude Lelouch is the other champion, as he owned the world rights, from Gance himself, but he is criticized a bit in Brownlow's book. Will discuss later.

The film has been shown rarely over the years, only for special events or special screenings, and it's importance seems to be limited to film scholars or students who know about it.
More people need to know about it's greatness, because it's actually excellent for a silent film from 1927.
There is lots of kinetic action and energy onscreen.
Gance devoted time to little details and set dressings, giving it genuine French Revolution flavor. I watched it straight through in one sitting and was not bored once. It does have it's lulls (what movie about Napoleon wouldn't have lulls in combat?) but it's hypnotic a lot of the time for me.
Charles Champlin (of the L.A. Times) said "it's a film against which all others are measured".
Maybe a bit of over-praising there, but I understand what he means.
There are scores of shots, and the editing is brisk and crisp, for the most part. My mind has little trouble following each new scene.
Fade-outs are used a lot, and tinting is used to excellent effect: with blues, purples, oranges, browns, whites and reds. Whoever did the tinting deserves an Oscar.
The final shots (the triptych sequence) with the colors of the French flag super-imposed were GREAT.

The cuts/edits are very rapid and it has it's own rhythm.
I love the military drumming- the snares. It's great, and it's used throughout the picture.
I also love it when Napoleon is in the heat of battle at one point and is shouting for the drums. "WHERE ARE THE DRUMS!!!???"
And then it starts to hail, with hail pounding off the drum heads! All drums are laying in the mud, as the drummers were killed by English shot.

The film begins at Brienne, with a snowball fight that is conducted like a real battle, a real war with young boys, with the Minim Fathers of the college encouraging the ones who show strategy or skill on the battlefield (playground).
Napoleon fancies himself a MAN.

12-29-2011, 02:46 PM
Part 1

I consulted two essential books on this film: Kevin Brownlow's history of the film and it's destiny from 1983: Napoleon (Abel Gance's Classic Film) and Nelly Kaplan's great BFI classics book of the same name. I learned a lot about this film from both books and they are one-stop shopping for everything you want to know about this special Masterpiece.

Eisenstein, Dovzhenko, Pudovkin and Akira Kurosawa all cite Abel Gance as a huge influence. The 3 russian masters studied Gance's LA ROUE at the Moscow Academy, learning the craft of making films from it. Kurosawa said LA ROUE was the first film that impacted him.
Gance may have come after D.W. Griffith, but he took "vision" to new heights, claiming patents on his cinematic inventions such as Polyvision.
His camera is very MOBILE, with his head cameraman Jules Kruger using a camera mounted on a bicycle, pullys and trolley lines, snow sleds, anything that Gance thought might give some dynamics to his picture. The photos from the sets and on location in those 2 books I mentioned are great to peruse.

The first 20 minutes is the section of Napoleon as a fierce youth, isolated from his fellow pupils at Brienne, proud, with strategic genius that dwarfs his mediocre contemporaries. Gance illustrates this with "creative exuberance" that isn't matched in the rest of the film. Super-impositions abound, and I love it.
The last visual tricks in the Brienne sequences are juxtaposition of up to 16 shots on one negative, a dizzying batch of "image-clusters" according to Nelly Kaplan, some chained together in 4-way or 9-way vertical and horizontal blocks. It's Napoleon's face, displaying levels of thought and fiery spirit.
For the 1920's it was astounding. Even watching it today makes you admire it's inventiveness. The film is peppered with such touches throughout the running time, probably the main reason I wasn't bored once. I kept waiting to see what other tricks Gance had up his sleeve.

Kaplan's book has lots of notes and journal entries from Gance about his rough experiences in getting the film made, from financing, to losing control of the production, his spirit and determination to make the picture against all obstacles. And it looked for a while like his dreams would be crushed, by people who had no clue what he was trying to do.
The book has a reproduction of a signed photo of Gance to Nelly in 1957, with Gance signing it:

Be daring, said Saint-Just- modern cinema, alas, doesn't know the meaning of the word!

The Brienne sequences show us Napoleon winning a snowball fight/battle on the school grounds, "20 against 60", with the Minim fathers taking note.
Napoleon is forced to spend the night outside after going ballistic over other students setting his beloved eagle free from its cage.
One of the fathers says "I maintain he will go far. He is made of granite heated in a volcano!" Pupils and Masters alike have nothing but antipathy for him.
He cries while sitting on a cannon on the porch, and his eagle suddenly flies right onto the cannon, with the scene eventually fading out of the blue tint.
The character of Tristan Fleuri is also introduced- he appears later in Toulon, during Napoleon's rise.
Feisty fellow students Phelipeaux and Peccaduc also appear later in Napoleon's career.

Cut to 9 years later, at the Revolutionary Club des Cordeliers, with the titles
Napoleon and the French Revolution

We are introduced to "THE THREE GODS" of the Revolution: Danton, Robespierre & Marat.
All of them are great characters. Marat is played by the human artist Tempest himself, Antonin Artaud. I love every second he's onscreen.
I am a big fan of Artaud.
Robespierre is hilarious, with his powdered wig & John Lennon granny shades, played by Edmond van Daele, who was tested for the lead role but it was given to Albert Dieudonne, a Gance regular.

The song/anthem "Le Marsellaise" is presented to the Club, and Revolutionary zeal is stirred up by it. The people love it. They cry. They cheer.
Napoleon is there in attendance, a Lieutenant in the Artillery, and he thanks Rouget de Lisle for bringing it.
"I thank you on behalf of France, Monsieur. Your hymn will save many a cannon".
Next is a beautiful rapid-cut sequence of people celebrating the new anthem, with flags billowing and Revolutionary fervour swelling.
There's a nice brief shot of a stained glass window with sunlight streaming though- a Gance touch, something I love about him.
The Monarchy is on the ropes. The Revolution is taking hold, and Napoleon smells it. It is August 1792.
He writes from his tiny room:
"All that results from carnage will be worth nothing. If we are not careful, the finest fruits of the Revolution will be lost."
Next is scenes with fire and brimstone speeches and a new Declaration of Rights.
The Monarchy crumbles spectacularly.

Next we are introduced to Josephine de Beauharnais, Napoleon's future flame. She goes to a palm reader/fortune teller (Lenormant) who tells her she will be Queen.
She catches Napoleon's eye.

Then it's Corsica, where Gance shot on location. Napoleon hadn't been back in 12 years, and he travels with his sister Elisa.
At Brienne, Napoleon was outraged at a teacher saying that Corsica was "half-civilized".
The island was under French rule, but the English wanted control, and Pozzo di Borgo (Attorney General to Paoli who was gonna sell out Corsica to the Brits) becomes a bitter foe to Napoleon, demanding death to the young officer for suggesting that Corsica should remain loyal to France.
Napoleon vows that as long as he's alive Corsica will never be English. He tells his mother vehemently that he will "Take Action!" against Pozzo's death threats.

And take action he does.

A reward of 500 pounds is offered for Napoleon dead or alive, for being a traitor.
As the titles tell us: "From this moment on, and until his departure from Corsica, the life of the young officer becomes the most incredible of adventure stories".

A couple action-filled horse chases take place, with Napoleon chased like a fugitive. He steals the flag of France from Paoli, shouting It's too great for you!
Pozzo's horsemen chase him on horseback all the way to the sea, the Sanguinaires, where Napoleon hops into a dinghy, and hoists the tri-color French flag as his sail.
Scenes in the Assembly are chaos, with calls for public indictments of all Girondins. Total chaos, but Robespierre is cool as a cucumber during the proceedings.
Napoleon escaped sucessfully from Pozzo & his men, but a storm at sea almost kills him. Gance has bolts of lightning and great special effects for the storm- it still holds up all these years later.
The camera gives us the total vertigo experience of being at sea in seriously choppy waters.

Amazingly, Napoleon survives the storm, and by "historic providence" he is picked up by the Le Hasard, a boat on which his two brothers are sailing!
He's hauled aboard, exhausted from the sirocco. But he's not too exhausted to call for Aspreto Beach and rouse his family, where he shouts to them:
The Bonapartes now have one country and one country only! FRANCE!!!

British Naval Admiral Nelson sees their "suspicious-looking vessel" in his telescope and wants to scuttle it but is told to not waste shot.

The final act of part 1 is THE SEIGE OF TOULON, a great attempt to show us on celluloid how that English redoubt was taken by the French Army, "with a whiff of grapeshot".
Gance gives us a lot during this sequence. Napoleon goes from being a new arrival to the port, scoffed at by superiors, to demonstrating steel nerves and steel resolve, then is allowed to command, then his orders/tactics are shot down by Generals who don't know what the fuck they are doing. He accepts full responsibility for the awesome artillery attack he orders (at midnight- which horrified his fellow commanders) and what happens?
After 76 hours of intense fighting, cut and thrust, pell mell, France has taken over the port, a port which Admiral Hood said was impregnable, that the French were prisoners in the harbour. How wrong he was.

Napoleon is promoted on the battlefield twice. The second time his rank (Brigadier General) is given to him by Commissioners of the Army by way of an apology.
At dawn to boot, with Napoleon sleeping in the mud, his head resting on a drum.
He's 24 years old.


01-06-2012, 03:06 PM
News of the 2012 release of the completely restored version. I'd love to be in attendance. What a fuckin' night that would be....


01-16-2012, 11:27 AM

Part 2 opens with the title "THE TERROR" and proceeds to show us a knife being placed in Charlotte Corday's bosom, a knife which she will use to stab Marat to death in the bath, to avenge the Girondins. Very dramatic scene.
Then Salicetti goes to Robespierre to ask to have Napoleon put on trial.
Robespierre says "Let General Bonaparte be offered the Command of the Paris garrison in place of Henriot. He's a man of strength, such as we lack in Paris, this Bonaparte. If he refuses, I will give him to you".

March 1794

Supported by Saint-Just & Couthon, Robespierre is at the height of his powers. He has complete control of the policy of the Revolutionary government. On his orders, he executes Danton for conspiracy against the Republic. People march and chant in the streets for mercy for Danton.
He's guillotined anyways.
Robespierre states that the representatives of the people consider that Bonaparte has lost their confidence through his suspicious actions.
He orders him suspended and arrested. He also denounces Josephine, saying that she will seduce the most virtuous. She's thrown into prison at Carmes, Fort Carre. General Hoche comforts her as she awaits the scaffold.
Her ex-hubby the Viscount (and father of her 2 children) is also sentenced to death. Amazingly, Josephines' dossier is EATEN by a fellow named La Bussiere. Her life is owed to him for it. Why he eats documents is a mystery- it's a funny scene.
Robespierre is ruthless and a monster. He wants 300 heads guillotined every single day.
The "thermometer" is heating up, and people start to demand justice for Danton's death. They want Robespierre and Saint-Just to taste death.
"You're walking on the graves of Girondins!" Jackals!
Saint-Just gives a rousing speech:
Is not the Revolution a great beacon lit upon tombs? Scatter our limbs to the 4 winds. Republics will rise up from them. I despise the dust of which I am made and which speaks to you. I GIVE IT TO YOU!
All Robespierreists are ordered executed the next morning. Their dossiers are prepared.

Napoleon is freed from prison at Antibes, and the following year he refuses Command in Vendee, even though he is dirt poor.
At the National Convention he is struck off the list of officers holding commissions for refusing to take on duties assigned.
He is attached to the topographical office of the army, where he draws up formidable plans for the Italian campaign.
Generals reject his plans. Gen. Scherer: "These plans are the work of a madman! Let him who wrote them come and execute them".

France is in agonzing poverty. They faced starvation and mass distress. People were moving away from the Republic as a result.
The Revolution needs a leader badly.
A Royalist insurrection is moving into Paris, and the Convention is at risk. Bonaparte (the Victor of Toulon) is suggested as a General to put down the insurrection.
"Does anybody know where he lives?"

01-16-2012, 01:54 PM
Napoleon accepts the challenge, stating to Paul Barras: "I have no liking for those I shall be serving, but when territory is threatened, the first duty is to rally to those who hold the reins of government. I warn you, Barras. Once my sword leaves it's scabbard, I shall not sheathe it again until order has been restored".

Then we see dramatic slow motion shots of Napoleon getting into a carriage. He orders 800 guns to be brought into the Convention Chamber, to arm members & staff as a reserve force, which alarms them all to the danger that exists.
Napoleon's famous *future* Marshal Joachim Murat is introduced.
Napoleon likes the cut of his Jib, and tells him he will lead 300 Cavalrymen to bring the Sablon cannon to Paris by 1 AM.

Napoleon is 26 years old. He releases Salicetti from *citizens arrest* custody after attempting to assassinate him, firing from a window.
Titles tell us that the majority of Parisians never knew of this, the assassination attempt or of Salicetti's being set free.
Napoleon says he can easily forgive, but NEVER forget.

At the Convention it's proposed that Napoleon be given the rank of "General in Chief of the Army of the Interior", which he accepts.
The crowd erupts, clapping & cheering. They feel Bonaparte has saved France.


The Thermidor Reaction:
In a fever, people hold 644 balls, a reaction against all this life and death that surrounds them. Even a Victim's Ball, to which people had to prove they were imprisoned, or had a father, brother or husband die.
Napoleon sees 3 ladies that he likes at a ball. One is Josephine (the beautiful actress Gina Manes), and we get a nice flashback sequence of when he first saw her, nice edits.
She takes him to the spot where she was going to be guillotined: "It was here, Mr. Bonaparte, that I was summoned to the scaffold!"
General Hoche loves Josephine too, and he and Napoleon have a chess match to see who is a better general.
Napoleon says during the game: Take care, I'm about to take your Queen.
He wins, and Josephine gazes at him with her fan, asking him "what weapons do you fear most, General?"
"Fans, Madame".

And guess what we see next?

Tits and Ass.
Gance shows us some skin! Peeps dance at the balls, and Gance's camera shows us nipples and crotches and bare asses-
probably to make sure his audience was still with him. It's great. Made me smile.

Then Napoleon orders all weapons seized from private citizens, with a young boy, Josephine's son, asking the General if he can keep his father's sword. Napoleon lets him.
The next day to thank him, Josephine visits him with her dog, and love sparks fly. "When you are silent you are irresisitible" she tells him.
He gets lessons from a young actor (Talma) on how to be romantic. He kisses a globe of the world, with Talma asking if he's kissing Paris.
He says no. He's kissing Josephine's lips! (Her face is superimposed on the globe- a great visual trick)
Napoleon comes everyday to Josephine's hotel. He's in love.
She agrees to marry him. On condition that Barras appoint Napoleon Commander of the Army of Italy.
Napoleon plays with Josephine's children, who like him.
He gives himself 3 months to conquer Italy, and before the campaign begins, he insists on getting married immmediately- the ceremony was funny to me. He's working on tactics for Italy day in and night out, and he forgets he's keeping his bride and the Notary waiting.
2 days later he heads to Italy.

We're told by titles that Napoleon did not want to begin in Italy without renewed strength gained from within the walls of the Convention.
He stopped his carriage outside the deserted Convention Hall and goes in, to meditate on his future.
Ghosts of the Revolution appear to him: Danton, Marat, etc. and they tell him that they realize the Revolution cannot prosper without a strong authority. They ask if he will be it's Leader. He shouts YES!
They ask if he will lead the Revolution into Europe. He shouts "YES!"
The ghost of Marat asks: "WHAT ARE YOUR PLANS, BONAPARTE?"

Napoleon replies that his plans are the liberation of oppressed peoples, the fusion of great European interests, the suppression of frontiers and THE UNIVERSAL REPUBLIC. Europe will become a single people, and anyone, wherever he travels, will always find himself a common Fatherland.

The ghosts of the Revolution stand and cheer.
Napoleon says: "To achieve this sacred aim, many wars will be neccesary, but I proclaim it here for posterity: Victories will one day be won without cannon and without bayonet".
The ghosts sing Le Marsellaise- nice juxapositions with the French flags flying at full wind.

Napoleon's life becomes REALLY epic after this point.

01-19-2012, 02:41 PM
I'm going to leave my review of the film at that.

Anyone interested in the film will see it and do their own research.
The scale and scope of this magnificent work of cinema is awe-inspiring.
The details in Nelly Kaplan's book about just how large it is/was are amazing.
Gance put his heart and soul into making it, saying the film and Napoleon himself are Promethean.
In 1955 Francois Truffaut said the film is "A long lyrical poem".
Kaplan notes that it's like Proteus, self-multiplying, in 20 or more versions, so large was Napoleon's bio.
Gance wrote it, dreamed it and lived it. He said Napoleon "was a paroxysm in his time, just as his time was a paroxysm of History..."
His motto while making it was Andre Breton's quote:
Beauty will be convulsive or there will be no Beauty.

Antonin Artaud loved being a part of the film and wrote later:
"To Abel Gance, with whom I lived in Napoleon hours as scorching as the life of Heliogabale"

Gance felt his film was Homeric, A film which must allow us to enter the Temple of Art through the giant gates of History.
He wished to show "the Unity and Fearlessness that was France between 1792 and 1815"
He wanted the audience to live it.
"The public should suffer with the wounded, fight with the soldiers, Command with the Officers. It should suggest collective involvement"
"OUR ART REQUIRES A HARSH LAW" was also a mantra.
Gance was a Titan.

The Eye.
Movement- the camera does somersaults, drops and spins for fucks sakes!
Compositions are spirits, it's visual music- every image is an incantation.

He invented the dolly for fucks sakes.
He invented russian montage before it was even called that.
If you care about movies, then drop a fuckin' knee to Abel Gance.
That shitty movie you watched last week owes it's life to him.

Chris Knipp
01-22-2012, 04:32 PM
Thanks for all this and the news of the showing of a restored version. I'm within driving or even BART distance of the Paramount Theater in Oakland.

01-23-2012, 12:26 PM
The review from you on this one would be divine...;)

If I lived in the Bay area I'd have already bought my ticket man!

Chris Knipp
01-23-2012, 01:15 PM
I didn't know about it till I came across this thread.

01-23-2012, 01:48 PM
As it says on the link: this is a cultural coup for Oakland.
I'd almost sell an arm to see this. (UNCUT! Big Screen! hUZZAH!)

Chris Knipp
01-23-2012, 02:07 PM
The Paramount Theater is a jewel box gem, a restored 19301 art deco movie house that's used for theatrical and musical presentations as well as classic films. That may be why it's being shown there.

03-15-2012, 02:56 PM
In my lastest e-mail from the Criterion Collection, they mention that they may one day release the 5.5 hour restored version of Abel Gance's Napoleon.

Can't wait.
That'll be a Massive DVD release.

Chris Knipp
03-29-2012, 05:07 PM
I and a friend got tickets for NAPOLEON on Saturday, so I am scheduled to go now. I am somewhat shocked to learn that it has two long intermissions and a hour and forty-five minute dinner break, hence it runs from `1:30 to some time after nine p.m. Perhaps a time-honored procedure. I kind of would have preferred what we did for the NYFF press screening of CARLOS. It either ran for five plus hours or we had a ten minute break midway, I forget. It was a long sit but then it was over. Eight hours really is dragging it out. It better be good. I guess it is, and that's why they're having this.

The schedule:

Act I ~ 1:30 p.m. – 3:30 p.m.
Intermission (20 minutes)
Act II ~ 3:50 p.m. – 5:00 p.m.
Dinner Break (1 hour, 45 minutes)
Act III ~ 6:45 p.m. – 8:30 p.m.
Intermission (20 minutes)
Act IV ~ 8:50 p.m. – 9:40 p.m.

Total screen time: 5 hours, 45 minutes

03-30-2012, 10:18 AM
Outstanding Sir.
It goes without saying: please DEFINITELY post about it.
Share everything about it with us.

Landmark event you will be attending.
*Jealous Green*

03-30-2012, 10:53 AM
You'll have a live orchestra, so I can't imagine it being a bore.
It's an EVENT. It's HISTORY.
Make sure you're rested up!
Looking VERY forward to your words.

Chris Knipp
03-31-2012, 12:22 AM
Sorry to disappoint you but now i am not going. It's complicated, but I am just not able to go at this time and under these circumstances. I will have to hope I can see it some time, in some form. I have not, so far. And I realize that's a pity. I am very impressed, Johann, at your detailed description of the film. You've done a remarkable job. It's a thorough description and at the same time a worthy tribute.

I have been talking with a friend about the early snowball battle sequence. It seems it was somewhat copied by Cocteau in his Dargelos scenes of a similar snow battle. I also have read that some think the actor who plays the boy Napoleon has more flair than the one who plays the older Napoleon. Those who have seen the film in the theater in the past, and I know at least two people who have, said that what you miss in seeing it on video is the opening up to the three screens at the end, which is a spectacular effect. Needless to say any film expecially an epic like this one is much better seen on the big screen but I am not going to eat my heart out at not being able to see it this time. I have seen a lot of special films and I will have to live without this one at this time.

I am impressed by your description of Gance's use of multiple screen and multiple image effects and extremely dynamic camera movement, the invention of the dolly shot, and many other daring effects. I have seen some clips and can see that he was extremely inventive.

Why did Kubrick not like it and find it too rough? What exactly is "rough" about Gance's Napoleon?

In the Wikipedia article thaey indicate that earlier recensions werre at 24 frames and later ones at 20 frames, which means that originally it was fast and jerky and later versions are smoother.

When you talk about the drum effects, what do you mean? Does your VHS version have drum sound effects on it? You talked a lot about the visuals but you said nothing that I noticed about the sound. Was it the music by Coppola's father? It seems that at one time Coppola prevented anyone from showing the film without his father's music. Yet the Wikipedia article on Gance's Napoleon lists practically a dozen versions of the film. I think early on it was cut to under two hours for a US version. And there have been three or four different compositions for it. The first one was Artur Honneger, who belonged to the Groupe des Six (including Milhaud, Poulenc, Auric, and incidentally including Cocteau as a non-musical member). I think I would really like to hear that music rather than the latest version, or Coppola's. Honneger is a significant composer. And I love that light, cool style of the Groupe des Six. It's sort of Art Deco music. I am, really, not a silent film person, even though my father was and used to rave about the great German silents to me when I was young. At the same time, I do not really like movie music that much, a lot of the time. I respond much more to the images. Do you think that sound and/or music was an essential part of Gance's conception of Napoleon?

I found Honnerger's music on YouTube. A bit disappointed.


It is too bad they can't manage to present the film more often. Its history is a little bit sad from the beginning, starting from the fact that Gance spent all the money for six parts on the first part, and had to stop there. Why does it have to be such a big production? Why not show it like a miniseries, in two or three parts on separate days, so people can see it without giving up their whole day? This was done with Shoah, which I saw last year. It's nine hours, and was shown at IFC Center on two successive days. It worked out quite well. The music could be recorded. The presentation should be made affordable. Making it a jewel box production that costs from $60 to $150 a ticket doesn't exactly make the film available to young aspiring filmmakers, does it? It becomes a diversion for the bourgeoisie.

For the moment the opening 9+ mins. of the snowball battle is on YouTube: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iZLyQGes-EY&feature=related

04-02-2012, 01:02 PM
That's too bad about not being able to attend. But life goes on. It has to.

Stanley Kubrick called it crude, and I think that's a bit unfair. I'm not one to argue with the Grand Master, but if you are someone who doesn't like silent films to begin with then Gance's Napoleon will seem utterly insufferable.
I'm a film buff, so I look at it from a different angle. Kubrick was consumed by his own version, so he was critical of any Napoleon film. He said Bondarchuk's War and Peace has a nice ballroom scene but overall not up to snuff.
Imagine what Kubrick's would have looked like. It would have been gorgeous.
Barry Lyndon is all you need to see how it would have looked.

Gance really aimed for Greatness with this one and achieved it. Kubrick said that there has never been a good Napoleon film but in all honesty he was wrong. Abel Gance did the best job you could hope for, given his times and resources.

That's a good point about the boy who plays the young Napoleon- Vlad R. He does have more magnetism than Albert D.
That boy has a real temperament that is only reached fleetingly by Albert.
If you do research on the casting of the title role, you'll discover that Albert dressed up one night in full Napoleon costume and arrived at Gance's house in the middle of the night, as a ghost. The nightwatchman (?) couldn't believe who was at the door.
Albert (as Napoleon) angrily asked him: "Don't you know your Emperor when you see him? Go get your Master!"
He wanted the part bad and he got it. And he did a great job. But the boy was better.

My vhs copy has drum sounds on the soundtrack during certain parts- I have a very high quality VCR- (19 (micron) heads).
Carmine Coppola does do the score and it's rousing. I dig it. I don't know much about the groupe des six- thanks for the info.
As far as whether or not Gance wanted Coppola score, he heard it at that premiere in Telluride, and he weeped.
So that about says it all about whether it was suitable.

$150 a ticket?
That's not very affordable.

Chris Knipp
04-02-2012, 02:17 PM
Well, it's unfortunate that I said I was going to go and then couldn't make it.

Now I'm a film buff too, ain't I? Can't I be a film buff but not a big fan of silent film? I recognize the importance of studying them to understand the history, and I recognize that there are masterpieces among them. I've studied the opening snow fight sequence carefully and I can see the ways it's remarkable for its time, indeed for any time. It's very inventive at certain points and visually extremely lively. However I think the medium at that point has certain limitations. One has to make many allowances. You yourself qualify your praise of the film, "Abel Gance did the best job you could hope for, given his times and resources." There are problems of the silent medium itself. Acting becomes mime. And the language of mime doesn't communicate in the same way at all as speech. I saw Marcel Marceau various times both on film and live, and frankly I could never really tell what he was getting at. I'm a visual artist, so one can't say I'm "not visual." The other thing is that one has to make allowances for the quality of the image itself. It works best in closeups. In the long shots, the figures are twisted and attenuated. The images are rickety and the whole image doesn't hold to the horizontal but at times shifts off kilter in one direction of the other. This was a medium in its infancy. We can adore early renaissance Italian painnting, yet know that perspective had not yet fully developed. In writing, the English language changed completely from Chaucer's time through the 16th, 17th, 18th, to today, yet we can read any book written in modern English without making any allowances. We don't have to make allowances because Dickens didn't have electricity or because Hemingway didn't have a computer.

The long passage when the screen shows overlays of young Napoleon's face with images of the battle is the most inventive. However, it is only a very impressionistic and partly expressionistic version of events. Do we really know that Napoleon was the winner till he comes forward at the end? That is the clincer. It's a clear, simple scene, and the text where the schoolmaster tells him he will go far is more essential to the whole sequence, conventional though it is, than the fantastic overlays.

19 heads! How is that possible? My VCRs aren't currently even set up to work, though i do have plenty of tapes still on file. i also have a small collection of laser discs. i read somwhere that there was a version of Gance's Napoleon on laser disc. I do hope to get to review the whole film in some form some day.

Thanks for your further notes about the two actors. I don't find Albert at all appealing. Maybe one doesn't have to.

Kubrick became a master at a time when the art was highly developed. However the early film we saw by him during New Directors this year was not particularly impressive. It would be useful for scholars though, because it has hints of certain things to come. This is listed in the ND/NF + Film Comment Selects thread (forums) but I didn't "review" it because I focus on new films when I cover festivals. This is more a predictor of themes than a preview of technical accomplishments or style.

FEAR AND DESIRE (1953) 72min
Director: Stanley Kubrick
Country: USA
Directed, photographed, and edited by the talented and ambitious 24-year-old
Kubrick, FEAR AND DESIRE was written by his high school classmate, Howard
Sackler, who would go on to win the Pulitzer Prize in playwriting. Some Kubrick
scholars see this wartime drama of five soldiers behind enemy lines and their
encounter with a native woman as a dry run for PATHS OF GLORY; others see it
as the original to the second half of FULL METAL JACKET. A Kino Lorber

04-02-2012, 02:26 PM
I have Fear and Desire on VHS. It is a horrible movie.
You have a great point: Kubrick's first efforts were amateur compared to Gance.
But Kubrick improved by leaps and bounds and then grew balls with regards to the complexity of his subject matter.

Albert Dieudonne has bad hair, and I think a more charismatic actor would have been better- someone who could really give us the AURA of a man with the Leadership temperament of Napoleon.
I read that they wanted to avoid a "Douglas Fairbanks on a horse" movie. They wanted to avoid that kind of thing at all costs.
Silent film does have it's limitations, agreed. And this one has it's limitations.
One thing that annoys is that we know there is TONS of missing footage and that it's not a complete film, so your mind is always thinking:
"Do I have to fill in any blanks with these cuts?"
"Are these sequences in the proper order?"
"Is this coherent?"

Kevin Brownlow did the reconstruction, and he knows the story on this film better than any man breathing. I trusted his 4 hour cut and I trust his 5 hour 45 minute cut. I would also trust his 8 or ten hour cut, if there were such a thing.

Chris Knipp
04-02-2012, 02:46 PM
I haven't read much by or about Kevin Brownlow, but I saw a photo of him with Gance in 1967 when he was quite young. He has apparently devoted his life to Gance's Napoleon. It is his great project. So we have to trust him. But the film evidently has a checkered history. Didn't it come to the US first in a 80-something minute version? So it has been chopped up a lot. Nonetheless the grandeur and ambition (and avoidance of conventionality, of Douglas Fairbanks stuff fluff) must be acknowledged, and the multiple overlapping and use of extremely rapid cutting are adventurous for any time.

Keven Brownlow by the way was reportedly at the first showing at the Paramount in Oakland weekend before last. But my friend in London said he saw this version withh the new music in the BFI earlier. So this was not the debut, just the US debut, if that's right.

I'm glad you say Fear and Desire is "a horrible movie." So I didn't have to say it. The writer may have gotten a Pulitzer, but the script is corny and dated. It reads like some Fifties TV drama, and not one I'd be likely to long remember. However some of the portrait and closeupps of the general I thought reflected a Kubrickian intensity. On the other hand the cutting is nothing much. Yeah, it's just awful. He was no Nouvelle Vague genius. A slow developer. But they can be the most impressive, and he certainly is.

Chris Knipp
04-03-2012, 01:19 AM
Another note. An article from Senses of Cinema on the occasion of the two 2004 showings of Brownliow's edition of Gance's Napoleon at the Royal Albert Hall is by Dean Bowman, then an MA candidate at Edinbugh University. It has come good critical comments on the film as history and on the "doubling" of Browlow, Gance, and Napoleon. He also goes into the legal aspects involving conflicts over rights to the film with Francis Ford Coppola. Claude Lelouch also resisted showings of the Coppola film due to his controlling the rights to the 'unsuccessful' version by Gance himself done in 1970.


Coppola, so it goes, is opposed to the Brownlow restoration being shown without his father’s score, and Lelouch has resisted screenings of it in France for fear that it would overshadow Bonaparte et la Révolution, which he has apparently been marketing as the definitive version.

It was in this atmosphere of legal intrigue that Brownlow dramatically labelled the screening at the Royal Festival Hall a “showdown”, thus infusing the event with almost as much excitement as the film itself. The audience were duly praised as daring cinéastes or as cultural dissenters, willing to see the ‘illegal’ film at all costs. Brownlow’s introduction thus succeeded in turning the Festival Hall into a simulacrum of the revolutionary convention, which is so dramatically presented in the film itself. This, of course, added to the experience, Brownlow and Gance being both agreed that film should be a spectacle.

The London screening was, fundamentally, an experiment designed to test the legal waters, which is why it had to be so high-key in its scale and venue. Indeed, Coppola responded to the screening by taking out an injunction against it, which was thankfully thrown out of court. With this victory under his belt, the next step for Brownlow is to release the film on DVD. However, the future of the film is uncertain and, when I asked Brownlow whether it will ever be released, he replied, “If you see the DVD it will be a miracle. But it will be the only way to break the American Embargo.” (3) The ball is in the British Film Institute’s hands and only it can bring the project to fruition.

--Dean Bowman, Senses of Cinema
Bowman quotes Geoff Andrew's book, The Director’s Vision: A Concise Guide to the Art of 250 Great Filmmakers: "As hagiography, the film, for all its length and detail, is dramatically conventional, psychologically simplistic and politically suspect, celebrating Bonaparte’s relentless rise to imperial power. Cinematically, however, it remains a triumph of audacious technique."

Great description of the 1979 Telluride showing of Napoleon with Gance present:
Brownlow’s first restoration of Napoléon, now much expanded upon by his latest version, though still forming the basis of the version held by Coppola, resulted in an audacious open air screening at the 1979 Telluride Film Festival, which was attended by Gance at the age of 89. Gance watched from his hotel window and acknowledged the shocked crowd “like the emperor” (28) himself. Brownlow says of the event that “the overriding feeling was of being a part of returning an astonishing work of art to the man who made it, in the midst of an extremely appreciative audience.
--Bowman, based on Browlow's book on the film.

This 5,000-word piece (http://www.sensesofcinema.com/2006/f...cles/napoleon/)seems like a great introduction to the film and the issues surrounding it. Really excellent piece.

04-03-2012, 11:06 AM
Great stuff. Thanks for all those items.

That's true about Claude Lelouch- that info can be found in Brownlow's book too.
There was a little 'war' over the screening of this film in it's various versions and soundtracks in the 1980's.

I don't think this film has ever been on DVD, has it? It's been tied up in legal mumbo-jumbo for years. But Criterion say they are interested in releasing it. The film definitely focuses on the RISE on Bonaparte- it's all about his rise.
The politics may be suspect, thrown together on the fly, written rather hap-hazardly. I wondered how accurate the speeches were- were those sentiments things these folks WOULD HAVE said? Did it exactly go down like that? Probably not.
Most definitely not. But Gance was being daring. It was over 100 years after the man lived. Even Kubrick with all of his research and knowledge, would have had to use creative license. This is cinema after all.

It is a triumph of cinematic technique. That is it's true merit.
Historically it's a document of how early silent filmmakers were finding their way with a formidible subject.
We can sit here and say "Why didn't they do to Napoleon what David Lean did for Lawrence?"
But the medium was still in it's infancy.

Context.... remember the context......

Chris Knipp
04-03-2012, 12:10 PM
A version of Napoleon was made available on DVD. Amazon listed one copy, for sale for $400! 3 hours and 40 mins., Japanese, all region format. It's gone now. Somebody with money to burn, probably prompted by the Oakland showing, has snapped it up so it's "currently unavailable." A DVD of Gance's La Roue is available for $36.


I'm sure most of this information is in Brownlow's book, but this Senses of Cinema piece provides an excellent wide-ranging summary, obviously the fruit of the Bowman chap's researches at the time as a budding film scholar. There is a short "Art Beat" video interview with Brownlow prior to the Oakland event that gives a general picture.


There's a short much earlier video of Brownlow by himself talking about Gance's innovations in filming and editing. The Russians, Eisenstein, owed it to him, and came and thanked him for what he'd taught him. It has several clips showing camerawork on horses and waves, and editing of a sequence with the Terror, Dantan speaking at a blacksmith's shop, and Napoleon at a window intercut rapidly.


Of course there is a lot of stuff and there will be more now in print following up on the Oakland showing.

Even Brownlow says that a lot of Gances's films were bombastic or melodramatic, but he claims Gance was the greatest filmmaker in Europe from 1916 to 1927.

04-03-2012, 01:21 PM
Thanks for all the good supplements!

I'm glad it's being discussed. Interest in this film is good.
The Oakland events are shining more light on it and I'm very glad.
I'm not even looking for reviews of the new cut. I don't really want to know.
If you reviewed it Chris I would have listened. I want to see it with my own eyes before drawing conclusions from someone else's impressions if I can help it.
I'm sure we'll see some new books and scores of essays on the new release.
Nothing wrong with that. I wish more people cared.

Gance has shortcomings- don't think I'm just putting him on a pedestal here.
His importance in cinema history can never be downplayed. He influenced some big names.
Believe it or not I've never seen La Roue- on vhs or DVD or otherwise.
That one might be more important than Napoleon.
I should find it.
Napoleon was a logistical nightmare- even a logistical holocaust, if you count how Kubrick eventually gave up. (He couldn't get the Romanian army to play his soldiers- it fell through on him). And then Waterloo with Rod Steiger popped up....perfect storm against Kubrick's production.

Gance's Napoleon will always be the first epic on Napoleon and right now, it's the last.
We STILL don't have anybody willing or capable of Frankensteining this for all times?

Chris Knipp
04-03-2012, 07:13 PM
I was surprised to learn that basically the same presentation was made of this enlarged Brownlow version with the Carl Davis music in London at the Royal Festival Hall so long ago as 2004. Is it Coppola's opposition or lack of interest that took them seven years to put it on in the US? I didn't realize that Kubrick was going to do a Napoleon movie. That explains why he was so critical of Gance's -- competition. I think Brownlow said La Roue was just as innovative, all of Gance's films were. I have never seen or even heard of it, but I have never pursued silent films. They are shown at the Pacific Film Archive in Berkeley, CA, which is not that far from me, but which I go to only rarely, sometimes for showings of SFIFF films if I can; it's hard to park but easier to get to than the main SF venue.

However I went over to SF today to the new SFFilm Society Theater (an achievement of the late Graham Leggett, on his watch anyway), which is a very nice spot where they show their own weekly presentations of new films, really close to the Kabuki Cinemas (the main venue of the festival) and has a cafe with excellent coffee and maybe the best cinema seats I've seen yet. I'll be seeing four of six press screenings for the festival there. Today's was a very fine French documentary called Entre les bras, AKA Stepping Up to the Plate (weird, culturally out of tune translation), about a son taking over from his father as chef at the family's Michelin multi-star restaurant in the Hautes-Pyranees. I'm not really into fancy food. I rely heavily on steak-frites or sandwiches when I'm min Paris by myself. But the family tightness, the creativity, and the immense dedication to standards of excellence made me cry. Beautiful film.

What they are showing to the public at this theater this week is House of Pleasures, the French period flick about a brothel that actually existed at the turn of the century in Paris. I reviewed it in October in Paris. Its international title I thought was House of Tolerence. Its French title is L'Appollonide (souvenirs de la maison close). Beautiful, partly disturbing film.


They showed Kill List which I'd liked to see; I missed it in NYC earlier. It ran there in early Feb. House of Pleasures ran commercially in NYC last November. So it goes. They get everything. The new SFFFS (and some Landmark Theaters in the Bay Area) briefly make available some of these films that don't get out here otherwise.

SFFilm Society Theater coming presentations to the public are This Is Not a Film and The Turin Horse.

What did you mean by "Frankensteining it," bringing back the Napoleon bio to life?


Chris Knipp
04-04-2012, 12:13 PM
A couple more links to information that sheds some more light on this fascinating topic:

The recent Criterion thread/forum on Napoleon occasioned by the Oakland showings:

The issue of a Criterion release of the film comes up, but it's unanswered.

And a review of the film by an IMDb commentator who calls himself Quibble that discusses the Coppola version:

Quibble had attended the London 2004 presentation which was more or less the same, I assume, as the 2012 Oakland one. He discusses what Coppola was up to in 1980-81, the faults of his (anyway much shorter) version of the film, as well as the Australian DVD of his version. This is an excellent comment.

04-04-2012, 02:59 PM
Thanks for the heads up on Entre les bras, House of Pleasures and Kill List.

Yes, I meant bringing Napoleon to life in an Awesome way by "Frankenstein"
It would be a big production. It could be the next great film epic, if someone had the drive.
Even single BATTLES are worthy of one movie. It doesn't have to be a straight bio-pic.
It could single out one day in his life if you wanted. It could be a week! Whatever would make exciting cinema.
I mean, a lavish EPIC is in the making here.
The maps are all there. You could even shoot the script Kubrick wrote. All kinds of options for this to be done right...

The comments on the Criterion site are cool. Kindred folks there. They know what it's all about.

As far as Francis Ford Coppola, I don't know the exact extent to which he has ownership.
Claude Lelouch had the world rights to the film as of 1983, and he had plans to re-release it and it all got snafu'd
So that would be something to find out: who owns the rights, to this new cut or any cut.

Chris Knipp
04-04-2012, 07:46 PM
It seems that Coppola allowed Brownlow and the Silent Film Festival to put on this Carl Davis-scored longer reedit in his own bailiwick, so to speak, of Northern California, so he may be subsiding. It's a long time since the early Eighties. Maybe Sofia said Cool it, Dad.

01-21-2013, 08:59 AM
I have finished going over the Taschen mammoth book Stanley Kubrick's Napoleon: THE GREATEST FILM NEVER MADE, and I now have 95% of the info I need on that film. It's 95% there in that book. It even has a key card that gives you exclusive access to Kubrick's picture file of 17,000 Napoleonic images.

It's huge, this book, weighs over ten pounds, I think. It's a reprint of the original limited edition, which had 10 books concealed in a Napoleon history book. Although it explains why the film was shelved, "frozen in time, circa 1971", I am not satisfied with that. That is the 5% I am missing. There was a management change at MGM and Kubrick and the executives decided to part ways. That is not enough information for a Kubrick fan like me. The success of 2001: A Space Odyssey should have ensured his next picture a green light, at any cost, yet it didn't happen.
And that silly film Waterloo shouldn't have fazed the production one bit. But it did somehow.

I suspect powerful people just told Stanley point blank that he could not make a film about Napoleon. Anything but the Man himself.
I happen to think that if people started investigating Napoleon as a result of seeing Kubrick's film, the world order would unravel.
And they could not have that. AT ALL. "Make anything else, Stanley, PLEASE!" I can just hear them saying.

This book has a Napoleon scholar give his insights on Napoleon on Film, in detail, and Abel Gance's Napoleon is one of them, it's described as a costly failure, with invented scenes and characters. All true.
37 reels were chopped to 14. The film still has a high place in my mind, despite the facts.
Kubrick said that Napoleon has everything a good story should have:
A Towering Hero
Powerful enemies.
Loyal and treacherous friends.
A tragic Love story.
Armed combat.

What was the source of Napoleon's fall? This was Kubrick's aim, to flesh out this man, this shaper of history.
Was it egotism? vanity? He made extraordinary errors when he was usually cautious. The book says the seed of his downfall was a blockade against Britain. It was sheer arrogance, that he could not be defeated that began his downfall. The wily Brits realized what Napoleon was doing and they flipped it on him. And got extremely rich in the process. The rest has shaped the world we live in, right down to TODAY, kids.

There still hasn't been a good film made of Napoleon Bonaparte. And I don't think there ever will be.
The real power structure of this planet will not allow it. People must not know what transpired there.

Napoleon said:

Conquest made me who I am. And Conquest alone will keep me there. Kubrick added in the margin: AN ENDLESS TASK.

I miss you Stanley. I know what happened. And I love you.

Chris Knipp
01-21-2013, 10:08 AM
Thanks for these further reading notes on the book on Kubrick's failed Napoleon project. Getting the Romanian army to play Napoleon's army fell through? Why? Did they have another engagement?

AMAZON US lists your Kubrick Napoleon book together with two others. Do you have them or know of them?

Frequently Bought Together
+ +
Price For All Three: $98.58

Buy the selected items together
This item: Stanley Kubrick's Napoleon: The Greatest Movie Never Made by Alison Castle Hardcover $44.09
The Stanley Kubrick Archives by Alison Castle Hardcover $44.10
Stanley Kubrick by Paul Duncan Hardcover $10.39

What do you mean by "a key card that gives you exclusive access to Kubrick's picture file of 17,000 Napoleonic images"? What's a "key card"?

I think I'll let slide the paranoia of your speculations that "THE WORLD ORDER" would not allow the film to be made because it would have led to speculation by the public that would have in turnled to the unraveling of the establishment. The fact is that Kubrick himself was given to grandiose projects that didn't come off, and movie studios are notoriously cautious even with or particularly with great and madly ambitious directors, no matter how successful their last movie has been. NAPOLEON is not the only great film project that he didn't do, is it? I believe even 2001: A SPACE ODYSSEY was a project that seemed insane and doomed for a while. Isn't that so? Kubrick had a little bit of a Howard Hughes eccentric madman in him. His fanaticism about details verged on madness. I remember a paperback about the making of 2001 that I saw (but didn't buy) that depicted absurdly elaborate production extras, like a space toilet, executed down to the most minute wasted and unnecessary detail.

01-21-2013, 10:23 AM
It's not paranoia.
Here's a quote from the book from Kubrick himself, a quote he used often, as Jan Harlan made clear.


Madman? No. That's Definitely wrong. He cared about his film, and if that's a crime, then he stands convicted.
I cannot draw a line between caring and not caring. Either you do or you don't. Caring means I'm a perfectionist? So be it. is another famous quote, paraphrased by me.

The key card has a pass code to enter the picture file online.

What I say is true. Not paranoia. And I'd appreciate you doing more research before "letting it slide".

Chris Knipp
01-21-2013, 10:34 AM
No harm was intended in saying that Kubrick had a little bit of the Howard Hughes madman in him. A little bit, note. He was a recluse. He was fanatical. He'd shoot scenes over and over and over. He went into enormous detail. I did not mean to impugn the great virtues of your idol, whom I also greatly admire. Paranoia is justified if what you fear is going on but a worldwide conspiracy to prevent Kubrick from making a Napoleon movie? I don't think so. More likely a natural "conspiracy" of events, of bad luck, and studio stubbornness and doubts.

01-21-2013, 10:41 AM
If he was a recluse, he had a reason. If he was fanatical, he had a reason. You are underestimating his intelligence, which was larger than both of us. Stanley Kubrick was one of the most intelligent men who ever walked the earth. I hate the word "idol'- I learned more from Kubrick and Jim Morrison and Hunter Thompson than any other person. "Idol" is too cheap for those men.

Kick 'em when their up!
Kick 'em when they're down!

Too critical here, Chris. Look again. Your eyes may be wide and shut here...

01-21-2013, 11:21 AM
I have scoured The Stanley Kubrick Archives, and the most interesting thing about it is the word "MENTMORE".
It is described as "a former Rothschild retreat", and it was a place Kubrick filmed on location for Eyes Wide Shut.
Is that the true name of the place? MENTMORE? Or is that word a clue?

The Taschen Napoleon book says that the book is clues to a mystery that can never be solved- Kubrick's Napoleon film.
But I see it as clues to a mystery than can never be solved for a much different item of business.
I know what "mystery" they are referring to.
And I know who held the candlestick.
And I want someone to step forward.

But I'm all alone on this one. So be it.


01-21-2013, 11:32 AM
And if anyone thinks that Eyes Wide Shut was simply about a marriage on the rocks, you are not very bright.

In the Napoleon book, Kubrick's producer and brother-in-law Jan Harlan says that Stanley said his greatest contribution to the cinematic medium was EYES WIDE SHUT.

Now what will you do with that information? Let it slide? Ignore it?
Then you don't "greatly admire him".
If you greatly admire the man then you pay attention to what he said and did.

01-23-2013, 09:45 AM
On Kubrick's Napoleon again:

The Romanian army was tapped, but it fell through, another mystery. Kubrick said that Napoleonic battles were like "vast lethal ballets", and he needed a huge army in order to illustrate that to an audience. He also said that military genius is hard to explain in words, as it all depends on the execution, on opportunity and calculation.

Kubrick was ready to roll cameras in 1969. There WERE forces against this film, and I don't think they were logistical.
No other person did as much research on Napoleon as Kubrick. No living human did as much research. When you read the transcripts of his discussions with Felix Markham, an Oxford scholar, you feel the intensity of Kubrick's obsession to detail. Kubrick is drilling for knowledge rights on Napoleon. He wanted the PSYCHOLOGY of such a man, not just a biography or mere "portrait". He intended to flesh him out as the "Man of Action" that he was. A man like Napoleon Bonaparte could not operate in today's world. He would be shut down in 1 day.
Napoleon was an extraordinary person, even though he did reprehensible acts. Kubrick was concerned with how he bungled the Russian campaign, ignoring the harshness of the Russian winter, not preparing his troops. The finest Army in the world was reduced to a shambles.
And then he tried to gloss over his mistake.
So it comes back to: vanity? Ego? Believing that he could not be defeated? Like Hitler?

It's fascinating shit, Mang.

Chris Knipp
01-23-2013, 11:28 AM
I don't think this is my kind of film. Battles are even less interesting to me than football games. I have a feeling the spectacle would have overwhelmed the psychological study. But still it's the kind of vast project Kubrick liked to get his teeth into and that he didn't get to do it is a great loss.

01-23-2013, 11:48 AM
Barry Lyndon benefitted enormously from Kubrick's Napoleon research. The battles in that film didn't overwhelm the psychological study of Redmond Barry, a character that Kubrick said rose to the top because he was unknown in society, he could weasel his way up, something many many people do today, in obscurity.

Chris Knipp
01-23-2013, 11:54 AM
cinemabon made a recent remark about BARRY LYNDON re: new cinematographic/ lighting technique being wasted on a crap film, that underlined that BARRY LYNDON is veiwed as a failure. I take it you would not agree?

Unfortunately I never saw it in a cinema/theater, hence I did not get the full value. I do think you're right that the battles didn't overwhelm character study.

01-23-2013, 11:55 AM
Also, if you notice, many of Kubrick's "protagonists" are un-involved. His films have "main characters" who are in the world but not really OF the world. They exist in a space that is very specific, with contexts that are very interesting. They are unlike other main characters in most other films, another reason why I love Kubrick. He just did things his way. And the world is a better place for it. Not that the world has changed, just that it is better for having Stanley hold up that mirror of human folly, which he found endlessly fascinating.
Great talent does not prevent cruelty and injustice and greed and evil.
No way.

Chris Knipp
01-23-2013, 12:00 PM
He seems best in caricaturesque people like in A CLOCKWORK ORANGE, where people are hilariously vivid and unreal. That was my first great favorite Kubrick film before 2001. Of course everything he did was notable but CLOCKWORK ORANGE was through the roof for me. Utterly amazing.

01-23-2013, 12:01 PM
If you think Barry Lyndon sucks then you don't know cinema very well.
As Lars von Trier said, Barry Lyndon is Monumental. It is more monumental than 2001.
Kubrick never got worse with each film.
He soared higher and higher and higher- right up until his death. He WAS Icarus. In the flesh.
Barry Lyndon won a cinematography Oscar for John Alcott, a Genius.

The story is about an Irish opportunist, and it ends in misery, total destruction.
Who would dare end a film in this way?
People want their movies to be perfectly gift-wrapped in a bow, and that is a sell-out.
I want filmmakers to shake the shit out of the audience, and that is what men like Trier, PT Anderson and Kubrick do.

They don't give audiences what they want. They give them what THEY DON'T KNOW THEY WANT YET, a Kubrick Maxim.

02-25-2013, 11:44 AM
More Kubrick items: (just cuz I wanna post 'em)

He felt that Chaplin, deSica, Welles, Bergman, Fellini, Max Ophuls and Hitchcock all have superb films to their credit.
He felt that there were only 3 ways to relate to life:
Power: grotesque (such as GDP to megadeaths ratios...)
Love: very hard to find and very hard to give
Withdrawing: very hard because of the tempo of Life, communication and social mobility

He also felt that cynicism, two world wars, loss of spiritual values, the communist disillusionment, and PSYCHOANALYSIS has forced writers to keep their heroes un-involved. The point being:


03-20-2013, 09:44 AM
A wild rumour is circulating that Steven Spielberg will direct a mini-series of Kubrick's script for Napoleon.
And the wild thing about it is that the rumour says he will tell the story from the perspective of Napoleon's horse. (?!?!!)
Mr. Spielberg, if you are listening, PLEASE do not tell that story from the perspective of Napoleon's horse.
That is a batshit insane idea.
I can't see how that would be novel or entertaining. Don't do it. No horse-perspective please.
We got that with WAR HORSE, didn't we?
Even LINCOLN had peeps on horses.

What is this horse kick you're on Steven?

Stanley wasn't going to do his Napoleon that way, why do you think that would be a great idea?
I have no problem with Spielberg making Kubrick's Napoleon- if any man is worthy to try, it's him.
But Lord Almighty, don't throw this into the shitter because of some creative licence....I will never forgive you.
You have the filmmaking skills to make something INCREDIBLE with Kubrick's Napoleon.
You could hand us another Glorious gift to cinema like you did with A.I, a film that I am very happy exists.
That torch is fucking heavy, isn't it, Steve?