TCM Review :
The story behind Abel Gance’s Napoleon (1927) is as exciting as the film. A masterpiece adventure originally running nearly seven hours, it breaks new ground with practically every shot, was filmed with techniques twenty-five years ahead of its time, and was rescued from oblivion by an obsessed teenager.
French director Abel Gance conceived an ambitious plan to film the life of the famous French leader in the early 1920s and, during a trip to America, even sought out D.W. Griffith to get his blessing for the project. Six feature films were to have presented a comprehensive biography of Napoleon but after a two-year struggle, Gance only succeeded in completing the first film before he ran out of money and time.
A tireless inventor, Gance devised new ways of presenting his story. To show his hero’s rapidly calculating mind, Gance splashed on screen shots containing up to sixteen superimpositions. A pillow fight becomes a flurry of feathers and action as the screen divides itself into four, then nine, separate images. This was not achieved in the lab; for each effect the film had to be exposed and re-exposed in the camera by means of complex calculations.
Language:Silent / Carl Davis Score