Saturday, March 24, 2012

Magnificent Restored 'Napoleon'
Screens Only 4-Times in Oakland

The dress rehearsal and tech run-through for "Napoleon" yesterday at the Paramount Theater in Oakland started at 10:15 a.m. and ended, after three intermissions, just shy of 6:00 p.m. and I was there to experience it.

This was my fourth time seeing this cinematic milestone and I had no problem giving up a beautiful sunny day in the Bay Area to feast my eyes upon the most complete "Napoleon" and hear the magnificent score performed live and with such passion and precision.

Seated down in the fourth row center of the orchestra, I marveled again at the powerful composition of practically every shot not just battle scenes or the section on National Convention featuring a cast of thousands but also the intimate scenes of Napoleon with his family or learning to flirt with his future wife Josephine.

The editing throughout is fantastic, while the handful of times when director Abel Gance employs rapid-style editing stunned my eyes with pleasure. It goes without saying that the sets and costumes are dazzling, adding depth and grandeur to the film.

And then after five-hours of Napoleon's life and times gloriously unfolding on a single big screen, the extraordinary twenty-minute finale starts and the Paramount Theater's specially-designed stage expands to three screens. The triptych panorama of Napoleon massing his troops for his Italian campaign, with the Oakland East Bay Symphony giving their all with the triumphant music filling the auditorium, left me in a state of awe.

Here it is the following day I am still rhapsodizing to my partner Mike about the stupendous thrills of this version of "Napoleon", which contains thirty-minutes of new footage found in various film archives around the world. There isn't a new thirty-minute section, but instead a minute or two added scenes of battles or balls.

During the Victims Ball sequence, at which only people who lost fathers, brothers, husbands or sons to the Reign of Terror are invited and showcases some of the happiest, partying victims ever put on celluloid, a fun queer moment occurs.

A thick-armed, drunk woman shares laughs and champagne with a man equally soused, before she pulls him close for a kiss before taking off her large wig to reveal she's a man in drag and getting a good laugh from the shock of the man she was smooching.

Needless to say, in this five-and-half-hour film, there are countless moments of movie magic to enjoy. This is one film that demands to be seen only in a big theater.

After today's screening, there are only three more opportunities to catch this monumental cinematic masterpiece. You can see "Napoleon" in Oakland on March 25, March 31 and April 1, starting each day at 1:30 pm. Click here for details about this special presentation and ticket information.

1 comment:

Richard Dworkin said...

You're so right about the film, Michael. And I'm so glad to know that the Bay Area is still a place where one can while away an afternoon in this wholly appropriate manner. I fondly recall such a "Napoleon" screening I attended in the mid-'70s, in some forlorn corner of San Francisco. I remember that one of the Georges --- was it Socarrás or Green? --- had a pink bakery box with a bow tied on top. Of course it held a half dozen servings of the appropriate French dessert.