Abel Gance's 1927 masterpiece is absolutely indispensable for silent-film buffs or anyone interested in classic world cinema. From the future emperor's first strategic victory, a schoolyard snowball fight, to the climactic invasion of Italy, Napoleon truly rules! This is no static, antiquated relic. Among Gance's innovations was to free the camera (for one battle scene, he had it mounted on horseback!). The film's justly celebrated climax features a triptych of synchronized images that anticipates by more than 30 years Cinerama and widescreen. But more than a triumph of filmmaking, Napoleon is a triumph of film restoration and was a boon to the vital cause of film preservation. Gance's movie was long thought lost. But historian Kevin Brownlow, with the cooperation of film archives from around the world, spent more than a decade painstakingly reassembling it. Francis Ford Coppola's name (not to mention a reported quarter of a million of his dollars) helped find Napoleon the audience this film so richly deserves. The rousing score was composed by Coppola's father, Carmine. Viva la Gance! --Donald Liebenson
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