On Sunday, at the Paramount Theater in Oakland, I saw the restored 5.5 hour version of "Napoleon" by Abel Gance. This restoration was completed around 2000 according to the New York Times. It was excellent. The score, composed by Carl Davis, was performed by the Oakland East Bay Symphony. Carl Davis conducted. It also, in my opinion, was very good. It went along with the movie and kept quite in sync with the action and with instruments played in the film. It was quite rousing in many scenes but also had its quiet moments. The quick cuts were fascinating. The snowball fight in the beginning with a young Napoleon was a theme that ran through the movie. I loved the wonderful tints used in various and appropriate parts of the movie. There was a lot of superimposition that was fascinating. Also there were numerous scenes where filming was obviously not done from a static location but rather on the move. The NY Times indicates "images shot from a pendulum, a sled, a bicycle and a galloping horse."
I also enjoyed the acting, the scenes, the story. Abel Gance appeared as Louis Saint-Just for some scenes in the latter half of the film. Marguerite Gance appeared as Charlotte Corday. Napoleon was played by Albert Dieudonné, who played in many films from 1908 up to 1941. I thought Edmond Van Daële was very good playing Maximilien Robespierre. Antonin Artaud played Marat. You can see the cast list at imdb.com
The film was in four sections. There were two twenty minutes breaks and one 1 hour and 45 minutes lunch break. The first three sections were all on one relatively normal size screen. About 5 minutes into the final 50 minute scene, two other screens of equal size appeared to the left and right of the central screen and the rest of the film was projected (I assume using three projectors) on these three screens. It was fantastic. The large scenes of his forces arrayed and officers riding their horses basically from one screen to the next was fascinating. The edges were not always perfectly aligned and I could see them occasionally raising or lowering the angle of projection in order to more perfectly match a screen next to it.
It really was quite an event. There are two more showings this coming weekend. I suppose my only qualm was that possibly those twenty minute breaks should have been thirty minutes. The lines to the restrooms were incredibly long and a number of people did not come back until after the next section started. Of course, even if the intermissions were 30 minutes probably someone would come back late. Restaurants in the area were full. I just wandered to a bar a few blocks away and had a sandwich. Regulars came in wondering what in the world was going on and were disappointed that their quiet Sunday afternoon drink was not so quiet.
The theater was very full although I don't think they sold out. I did not immediately notice any empty seats. A person next to me had driven up from Riverside. I'm sure others in the theater were from even greater distances. For the entire film the audience, for the most part, was very quiet. Unfortunately one fellow a few seats away did feel it necessary to make a
few comments several times during the film to his companion. Fortunately they were short and there weren't really many. I know it was silent but I came to hear the orchestra and the silence of the film, not an audience member talking.
The Paramount Theater is marvelous by itself. If you ever get a chance to see something there I would recommend it, simply to see the inside of a very lovely theater.
There were articles in the New York Times and the Wall Street Journal about the movie.
And Buku was on mind my throughout the movie. . .