Abel Gance – Bonaparte et la révolution (1972)


The last film made by legendary French director Abel Gance, Bonaparte et la révolution (1971) was also his final attempt to release the Napoleonic biopic he had begun in the 1920s. Napoléon, vu par Abel Gance (1927) was over nine hours long, but represented only the first of a planned six-film series. Having failed to get funding for the remaining episodes, Gance revamped his silent film as Napoléon Bonaparte (1935) – adding newly-shot scenes and dubbing his decade-old footage. After other abortive attempts to resurrect part or all of his biopic in the 1950s, Gance gained funding from Claude Lelouch to release Bonaparte et la revolution in 1971. This last version recycles footage from the films of 1927 and 1935, as well as material from his television work of the 1960s. The result is a bizarre mishmash of old and new images, performances, and voices – less a coherent film than a document embodying the whole of Gance’s 45-year involvement with his eternally incomplete project. Continue reading

Abel Gance – Austerlitz (1960)

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In what must be the longest lapse of time between a film and its sequel, 70-year-old Abel Gance continues his nearly legendary, 1927 historical drama Napoleon with this tale of Napoleon’s life after his victories in Italy. The first half of Austerlitz delves into the private life of Napoleon Bonaparte (Pierre Mondy), the prodigal son of Corsica. The supreme commander of the French armed forces goes about his family life and dallies with Josephine (Martine Carol) and mistress Mlle. de Vaudey (Leslie Caron). He occasionally displays bursts of temper that presage some of the macho violence of the battle scenes in the second half of the film, after Napoleon has proclaimed himself Emperor. This sequel shows that Gance has not lost his directorial touch. ~ Eleanor Mannikka, All Movie Guide Continue reading

Abel Gance – Vénus aveugle AKA Blind Venus (1941)


From Wikipedia :
Vénus aveugle (Blind Venus) is a 1941 French film melodrama, directed by Abel Gance, and one of the first films to be undertaken in France during the German occupation. (It is also sometimes cited as La Vénus aveugle.) In the upheaval following the German invasion of France, in summer 1940 Abel Gance went to the Free Zone in the south and arranged a contract to make a film at the Victorine studios in Nice. The original title was to be Messaline, drame des temps modernes (“Messalina, a drama of modern times”), but it was later changed to Vénus aveugle. Although the film is not set in any specified period, Gance wanted it to be seen as relevant to the contemporary situation in France. Continue reading

Abel Gance – La Roue (1923)


Flicker Alley says…


Never before released in the United States, this monumental French film is one of the most extraordinary achievements in the whole history of cinema. Written and directed by Abel Gance (Napoleon, J’Accuse), three years in production, and for its time unprecedented in length and complexity of emotion, La Roue pushed the frontiers of film art beyond all previous efforts. Said Gance, “Cinema endows man with a new sense. It is the music of light. He listens with his eyes.” Continue reading

Abel Gance – Napoleon [Brownlow restoration, +Extras] (1927)


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. Continue reading

Abel Gance – Napoléon Bonaparte (1935)



2011 restoration by La Cinémathèque Française of the re-edited sound version of Abel Gance’s 1927 epic silent film “Napoleon”.

French language only, no english subtitles.

One of the most high-profile casualties of the transition from silent to sound cinema was the French filmmaker Abel Gance. In the silent era, Gance had proven himself to be as great a cineaste as the other legendary pioneers of cinema, D.W. Griffith and Sergei Eisenstein, through a series of groundbreaking masterpieces that included J’accuse! (1919), La Roue (1923) and Napoléon (1927). It was the latter film that was to earn Gance particular acclaim and lasting recognition as one of the architects of cinema art, a five hour visionary epic that presented the early career of Napoléon Bonaparte with a visual artistry and panache that is, to this day, virtually unrivalled. As he struggled to make much of an impact with his sound films, it was inevitable that Gance would return to his earlier great achievement and give it a voice. His sound version of Napoléon would prove to be both a monumental piece of cinema in its own right and a terribly prescient foretaste of the cataclysmic events that would soon overtake Europe in the mid-to-late 1930s. Continue reading

Abel Gance – Lucrezia Borgia (1935)



Episodes from the life of Lucrecia Borgia’s. Spoiled and willful, she has many love affairs and tries to resist her ruthless and scheming brother César Borgia’s plans to marry her off for political advantage.

Episodic and hard to follow to those not familiar with Italian geography and with the political situation of the time. Nice sets and costumes but the 16 millimeter print I saw did not show them well.

The kind of movie the French New Wave rebelled against Continue reading