Saturday, October 20, 2001

Film concert Napoléon vu par Abel Gance, 2001 Le Giornate del Cinema Muto, Teatro Nuovo Giovanni da Udine, day trip by steam train, Kevin Brownlow restoration, conductor Carl Davis, Camerata Labacensis (Ljubljana)

Napoléon vu par Abel Gance (FR 1927). Albert Dieudonné (Napoléon Bonaparte). Gina Manès (Joséphine de Beauharnais). The final Polyvision sequence. Credit: Photoplay Productions Ltd. From: Paul Cuff: "A monumental reckoning: how Abel Gance’s Napoleon was restored to full glory". Sight & Sound December 2016. Updated 3 August 2017. Please click on the image to expand it.

Teatro Nuovo Giovanni da Udine - 1230 posti
Transport: an old steam train Sacile - Pordenone - Udine. Departure: 12.25 pm. Return: 1.00 am.
Triple screen - triple projection Polyvision
The 2000 restoration (the third by Kevin Brownlow)

Country France
Release Date 1927
Production Co. Consortium Westi/(Ciné-France-Films) / Films Wengeroff / Pathé Consortium / Films Abel Gance, 1925, Societé Générale de Film (1926)
Director Gance, Abel
35 mm 18 / 20 fps
24745 ft 333' (5 h 33 min)
Archive Source BFI Collections (National Film and Television Archive)
Speed is 20 fps except first 2 reels, episode 1, Brienne, which is 18 fps.
tinted and toned
English intertitles.
E-subtitles in Italian

Albert Dieudonné (Napoléon Bonaparte)
Vladimir Roudenko (Napoléon Bonaparte da bambino / as a boy)
Nicolas Koline (Tristan Fleuri)
Petit Roblin (Picot de Peccaduc)
Petit Vidal (Phélippeaux)
Robert Vidalin (Camille Desmoulins)
Francine Mussey (Lucille Desmoulins)
Harry Krimer (Rouget de Lisle)
Alexandre Koubitsky (Danton)
Antonin Artaud (Marat)
Edmond Van Daële (Maximillian Robespierre)
Maryse Damia (La Marseillaise)
Gina Manès (Joséphine de Beauharnais)
Max Maxudian (Barras)
Andrée Standard (Thérèse Cabarrus [Mme. Tallien])
Suzy Vernon (Mme. Récamier)
Carrie Carvalho (Mademoiselle Lenormond)
Louis Sance (Louis XVI)
Suzanne Bianchetti (Marie Antoinette)
Yvette Dieudonné (Elisa Bonaparte)
Eugénie Buffet (Lætitia Bonaparte)
Georges Lampin (Joseph Bonaparte)
Sylvio Cavicchia (Lucien Bonaparte)
Henri Baudin (Santo-Ricci)
Acho Chakatouny (Pozzo di Borgo)
Maurice Schutz (Pascale Paoli)
Marguerite Gance (Charlotte Corday)
Annabella (Violine Fleuri)
Serge Freddy-Karll (Marcellin Fleuri)
Léon Courtois (Général Carteaux)
Philippe Hériat (Salicetti)
Adrien Caillard (Thomas Gasparin)
Alexandre Bernard (Général Dugommier)

Gilbert Dacheux (Général du Teil)
Jean Henry (Sergent Junot)
Pierre Danis (Muiron)
Jack Rye (Général O'Hara)
Henry Krauss (Moustache)
Pierre De Canolle (Capitaine August Marmont)
W. Percy Day (Admiral Hood)
Abel Gance (Louis Saint-Just)
François Viguier (Couthon)
Janine Pen (Hortense de Beauharnais)
Georges Hénin (Eugène de Beauharnais)
Pierre Batcheff (Général Lazare Hoche)
G. Cahuzac (Vicomte de Beauharnais)
Philippe Rolla (Général Masséna)
Jean d'Yd (La Bussière)
Jean Gaudray (Jean Lambert Tallien)
Alexandre Mathillon (Général Schérer)
Mme. Blanche Baume (domestica di Marat /Marat's servant)
ballerine del /dancers from the Casino de Paris, Apollo, Moulin Rouge, Folies-Bergère (ballerine/dancing girls)
Other Credits

Krauss, Henry (asst. dir.)
Tourjansky, Vladimir (asst. dir.)
Andréani, Henri (asst. dir.)
Volkoff, Alexandre (asst. dir.)
Nalpas, Marius (asst. dir.)
Danis, Pierre (asst. dir.)
Kruger, Jules (dir. ph.)
Mundviller, Joseph-Louis (chief cam.)
Burel, Léonce-Henry (addtl. ph.)
Beaugé, Marguerite (ed. assoc.)
Pinson, Henriette (ed. (montaggio negativo /negative))
Benois, Alexandre (art dir.)
Schildknecht, Pierre (art dir.)
Lochakoff, Alexandre (art dir.)
Jacouty, Georges (art dir.)
Meinhardt, Vladimir (art dir.)
Feldman, Michel (tec. spec.)
Feldman, Simon (tec. spec.)
Dalotel, Maurice (tec. spec.)
Day, W. Percy (tec. spec.)
Scholl, Edward (tec. spec.)
Wilcke, Nicolas (spec. eff.)
Minine, Paul (spec. eff.)
de Chomon, Segundo (spec. eff.)
Charmy (cost.)
Sauvageau, Alphonse (cost.)
Mme Augris (cost.)
Mme Neminsky (cost.)
Lanvin, Jeanne (Mme. Manès' cost.)
Muelle & Souplet (fornitore costumi/cost. supplier)
Galvin (calzature/footwear)
Pontet-Vivant (parrucche/wigs)
Kwanine, Vladimir (make-up)
de Fast, Boris (make-up)
Ruggieri (esplosivi/explosives)
Lemirt (armi/weapons)
Mitry, Jean (stagiaires/trainee assistants)
Arroy, Jean (stagiaires/trainee assistants)
Purnal, Sacher (stagiaires/trainee assistants)
Cendrars, Blaise (stagiaires/trainee assistants)
Other Information

orig. dist.: Gaumont-Metro-Goldwyn; première: 7.4.1927, Théâtre National de l'Opéra, Paris
Music composed, arranged, and conducted by Carl Davis; performed by Camerata Labacensis, Ljubljana. Additional orchestrations by Colin Matthews, David Matthews, Christopher Palmer, Nic Raine.
Program Notes: Kevin Brownlow and Napoleon

" I first encountered the film when I was a schoolboy. I saw two reels on my 9.5 mm home movie projector. I was stunned by the cinematic flair - I had never seen anything comparable - and I set out to find more of it, and more about it. I was puzzled by the antipathy the film aroused among critics and historians who remembered the original release. I expected with each rediscovered sequence that they would be proved right, and the quality would take a plunge. But the more I added to the film, the better it became. And eventually I discovered that most of those writers had seen one of the butchered versions. "

" When I became a feature-film editor, I began to earn enough to do a proper restoration. I was given facilities by the National Film Archive (who eventually took the project over). Whenever the work-in-progress was screened at the National Film Theatre, the place was always packed, the reaction always very strong. People stayed up allnight to watch it at the Telluride Film Festival, Colorado, in 1979, even though it was projected outdoors in freezing temperatures. Watching from his hotel window was Abel Gance himself, then in his ninetieth year. "

" The climax came in 1980, when David Gill and I staged the first performance with live orchestra for Thames Television and the British Film Institute at the Empire Theatre, Leicester Square, London. Carl Davis created the massive score in three months and he conducted the Wren Orchestra. We wereall intensely nervous before the show. What right had we to expect the public to sit still for an old silent film lasting five hours? Of course, they did not sit still. They rose to their feet and gave it a standing ovation. It was the most moving occasion I have ever attended in the cinema. (Extract from Kevin Brownlow's introduction to Napoléon -Abel Gance, edited by Bambi Ballard, Faber and Faber, 1990.) "

" This is the third full-scale restoration of Napoleon. Based on the 1980 version, an extended version was produced by Bambi Ballard using all the material held by the Cinémathèque française. This extra material was brought over to the National Film and Television Archive and copied by João Oliveira. Thanks to the financial support of Erik Anker-Petersen,a new restoration was begun in l999. This latest restoration was first shown at the Royal Festival Hall as the gala opening of the 56th Annual Congress of the International Federation of Film Archives (FIAF) in London in June 2000. "

" The material imported from France has been copied and cut into the cutting copy. It makes a difference - the additional footage is of high quality and with the additional titles makes the narrative easier to follow, and more interesting. "

" The titles for the old restoration were made very cheaply, and had no connection with the bold l8th-century typefaces used in the original. We have reshot (and retranslated) all the titles using the original typefaces - Roman for descriptive and italic for dialogue - and this makes a considerable difference to the look of the film. We have found the original main titles and most of the credits, and can reproduce these exactly. We are sticking to the French title Napoléon vu par Abel Gance, as it is difficult to translate. "

" The first episode - Napoleon's schooldays in Brienne - was photographed by a different cameraman from the rest of the film, and several people complained that we were running it slightly too fast. So we are now projecting Brienne at 18 fps, and the music has been adjusted accordingly. (The remainder goes at 20 fps.) "

" Where we have found better quality material for the identical scene, we have used it - but in some cases we have found scenes of superior photographic quality, but the performance is inferior. These have not been used. For instance, in the Toulon section, Napoleon is seen dismounting from his horse twice - a bad piece of editing by an assistant trying to make up yet another negative. We have remained with the better scene - in which he dismounts once, very professionally - even though it is marred by having the soundtrack area blanked out. In the wedding, the new material is of much better quality, and we have used it for the first half - but Dieudonné's performance is not as good in the latter half of the sequence, and we have returned to the original, despite the signs of decomposition. "

" There are some substitutions of complete sequences - such as the Marseillaise - because the reels discovered are clearly definitive. These reels also indicated where tinting should start and end, and provided samples so we can reproduce these exactly. "

" Some of the new material simply did not fit. How can you use the Corsican gendarmerie chasing Napoleon uphill at the opening of the chase across Corsica sequence, when the opening we have shows the horsemen in completely different terrain? In the Double Storm, it is odd how the new negative matches the old one shot for shot, yet with each one differing by a few frames. "

" The first time I did the restoration, I felt lucky to find anything extra. This time I often had three versions of the same scene, but played or directed in a slightly different way. Sometimes, the decision was made for me. Mme. Tallien arrives at the Baldes Victimes and simply stands there, looking elegant. In another - probably reshot - version, Mme. Tallien arrives and is showered with rose petals. " 

" Sometimes the playing was better, but the camera angle slightly inferior, or vice versa. I therefore had enormous difficulty in deciding which to use. The most taxing of these sequences was a brand-new "Death of Marat" sequence - twice as long as the old one. I decided to go with this new one, but when we projected it we realised there was something seriously wrong with the makeup on Marat, which obviously had caused Gance to cut it down himself. In one or two other places, Gance had made cuts rather than additions, and I generally followed him. Sometimes it was necessary to use an extra scene of no particular merit in order to explain the excellent scene that follows - as with Josephine playing the harpsichord, which is followed by a delightful scene of her daughter talking to her pet parrot about her mother and Napoleon. " - KB


The most ambitious event in the Festival's history was a fitting way to celebrate its 20 glorious years.

Napoléon vu par Abel Gance (FR 1927). Restored by Kevin Brownlow / Photoplay, music compiled, composed and directed by Carl Davis. The latest restored print was shown for the first time as a special all day spectacle in Teatro Nuovo Giovanni da Udine. What was new in it? Better pictorial quality, and especially better tinting. And real polyvision via three projectors. A steam train took the audience from Sacile to Udine and back. Departure: at 12.25 pm. Return: at 1.00 am.

This was the best experience I have had of the film. The fine-editing of the film brings new charms to it. The extremely difficult tinting is uniquely successful (tinting nowadays almost always fails, which is why I prefer straight black-and-white to most modern tinting). I belong to the defenders of Carl Davis: lifting bodily large chunks from Beethoven is absolutely justified in this film. Beethoven is evidently the Napoleon composer, and why settle for anything less? Most importantly, all the efforts in restoration and music serves to bring Abel Gance's vision alive for modern audiences. It's still one of the most breathtaking films of all times, a magnificent combination of epic and intimacy, of terror and comedy. It's almost impossible to make a successful film (or novel, or play) of a great modern historical figure as the protagonist. Abel Gance succeeded in showing the bravado, the vision, the weakness and the vulnerability of Napoleon. ****

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