Abel Gance’s “Napoleon”

Monday, November 28, 2011

Academy Award-winning historian, documentarian, and archivist Kevin Brownlow talks about restoring Abel Gance’s legendary film “Napoleon.” The current restoration, completed in 2001, reclaims about 30 minutes of footage culled from archives around the world and visually upgrades much of the film—the 35mm print uses the original dye-bath techniques, accurately recreating the color tints and tones of the initial release. It hasn’t been screened theatrically in the U.S. with live orchestra for nearly 30 years.


Kevin Brownlow

Comments [14]

mark from Huntington, NY

From what I understand, the SF screening is not "just a tease" - Coppola is allowing just these screenings of Brownlow's restoration with the Carl Davis score and there may not be others. Brownlow's restoration is at least 2 hours longer than what was shown at Radio City Music Hall in 1981 (which I attended) and the Davis score is infinitely better. I've been waiting for this for 30 years and will be in SF in March.

Nov. 29 2011 03:22 PM
SeanAx from Seattle, WA

To answer a couple of questions: The version that Coppola distributed in the eighties was indeed based on Kevin Brownlow's restoration at that time, but Coppola felt it was too long for an orchestra to accompany in a series of shows so he cut it down to a shorter length.

Brownlow has indeed made the restoration of this film a life's work. He has never stopped looking for missing footage or better footage. The 2000/2001 restoration is his most recent restoration (in that he has incorporated the footage in a new, comprehensive print that has been cleaned, tinted and timed) and it is over an hour longer than the Coppola cut (hard to time silent prints without knowing the exact projection speed). I saw it in 2001 at the Pordenone Silent Film Festival with a live orchestra and it was magnificent. The Carl Davis score is also superb, and I much prefer it to Carmine Coppola's score.

There will be four shows in 2012 - March 24, 25, 31 and April 1 - at the Paramount Theater in Oakland, CA. It's a massive undertaking, very expensive and years in the making.

It would be lovely to see on DVD/Blu-ray, but Coppola still controls the rights to the film in the U.S.. It is all in his hands.

Nov. 29 2011 12:45 PM
Vic from .

I, too, was there for the triptych film screening of NAPOLEON at Radio City Music Hall back in the early 80's. As I recall, there was a newly discovered Prokofiev film score which, also, created a lot of excitement, & anticipation.
Now, to hear on WNYC there is, yet, another more complete & correct version of this film...& one which will "only" be shown (somewhere) in California _ is just a tease.
Seems to me, this would be another great event on the NYC cultural calender >
1 Night Only -
Radio City Music Hall & The New York Philharmonic proudly present...the newly restored & epic version of the silent screen classic,
Tickets go on sale...

Nov. 28 2011 11:04 PM
Bill from Hammond, LA

trailer for next year's screening of the current restoration of "Napoleon" maybe a DVD release has been worked out?

Nov. 28 2011 05:04 PM
Dan North from The Hague

Coppola has, for a long time, been blocking screenings of the long, restored version of Napoleon, i.e. the one that doesn't fit Carmine Coppola's score. It certainly puts his claims to being an artist or lover of film into sobering perspective.

Nov. 28 2011 05:00 PM
Maya Toitova from NYC

Me Again... I'm hearing a discussion as though the NY Film Festival presentation never happened. Here's a link to the Times review of that time, 1971, it turns out, a 270 minute show...,new%20york%20film%20festival&st=cse

Nov. 28 2011 01:23 PM
Ric Kallaher from Montauk, NY

Was awestruck by the version @ Radio City with the Live Orchestra - worth every penny. still have the poster & THE PROGRAM!. I too wonder what the difference is & why no mention of this earlier version.

Nov. 28 2011 01:21 PM
Frank from UWS

The Coppola Radio City screening, with tinting, also included live full orchestra accompaniment conducted by Coppola's dad. A memorable experience.

Nov. 28 2011 01:21 PM
Diedrich Knickerbocker from Manhattan

I've read that Coppola is blocking the release on DVD (and even some theatrical showings) of Napoleon because he wants to preserve his late father's score. Can you ask Mr. Brownlow if this has been worked out?

Nov. 28 2011 01:20 PM
mick from NYC

How does this version differ from the one restored by Kevin Brownlow and distributed by Francis Ford Coppola in 1980?

Nov. 28 2011 01:14 PM
Joseph Olewitz from NYC

What is the difference between the version you are discussing today and the three-screen one I saw at Radio City in 1981?

Nov. 28 2011 01:11 PM
Edward from Washington Heights AKA pretentious Hudson Heights

I also saw Napoleon at Radio City Music Hall, in the 1980's???, accompanied by a live orchestra led by Carmine Coppola. Admission was $20 which for the time was a lot for a movie. I sat in one of the high balconys.

Nov. 28 2011 01:10 PM
James Leverett from Manhattan

I am looking forward to the conversation about Gance's Napoleon. I hope the subject of dvd release will be discussed. I checked with Criterion yesterday and there seems to be a problem even announcing whether there will be a release. Having seen it years ago at Rockefeller Center, I hope (against hope) there will be.


Nov. 28 2011 01:07 PM
Maya Toitova from NYC

How many times can this restoration happen, for the first time? I saw one of Mr Brownlow's (I am an enormous fan -- own a first edition of his Parade's Gone By) restorations at the NY Film Festival in the late '60s, I think. Then there was Coppola's first time ever restoration (with Mr. Brownlow, I seem to remember) reissue, with score by his dad, and now here it is again... a lifetime project, it would seem.

Nov. 28 2011 01:03 PM

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