Thursday, 28 November 2013

Abel Gance Napoléon RFH Saturday

Almost unique event this Saturday, 30th November - a screening of Abel Gance's epic Napoléon at the Royal Festival Hall, London.  This version, curated by Kevin Brownlow,  runs from 1330 to 2130 with two intervals and a 100 minute dinner break. A marathon! This screening will be accompanied by the Philharmonia Orchestra, playing Carl Davis's score for the film.

Gance's Napoléon is legendary because it's a masterpiece of cinematic art, with sequences and shots way ahead of its time, and a dramatic intensity that makes spoken dialogue superfluous. This was film as the highest form of art. Albert Dieudonné played Napléon, Antonin Artaud played Marat and Gance and his wife played subsidiary parts. The original music was composed specially by Arhur Honneger and can still be heard - separately from the film - as his Napoléon Suite.

So why is a milestone in film and music history,  made nearly 90 years ago, still excluded from public life? I won't go into the legal ramifications here, but read the article in the NYTimes for background.  But what artistic integrity lies behind some things. How much of the profits actually accrue to those who made the film in the first place? It also raises questions about the stranglehold of the English language media,. The NYT article quotes a US review of an early version released in the US. "The film “doesn’t mean anything to the great horde of picture house goers over here......“Nap wasn’t good looking enough and they didn’t put in the right scenes for the flaps here.” Oh well. Maybe we're wiser and more mature nowadays.  Or not, as the case may be.

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