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7 hours of film, 16 years of work: this legendary masterpiece has never been seen before!

7 hours of film, 16 years of work: this legendary masterpiece has never been seen before!

“And why not?”Ridley Scott smiled when we asked him why he wanted to continue his study of French history by touching the figure of Napoleon Bonaparte. “It had £10,400 on it.” and “only” A thousand audiovisual works dedicated directly or indirectly to him.

A list that Stanley Kubrick could not join, his project never saw the light of day. And in which Ridley Scott’s film in 2023 did not impress as expected.

But is it possible to make a film about Napoleon without comparing it to the mythic version of Abel Gans?

Whether you’re a movie buff or not, you’ve undoubtedly heard of this legendary film. Albert Dieudon’s images and his piercing gaze in the lead role may even be familiar to you. But you’ve never seen this movie. Till today.

Rest assured: your memory and your mind are not playing tricks on you. But you may have seen one of the film’s many edits (legend has it that there are up to twenty-two different edits, ranging in length from 1 hour 48 to 9 hours 40), but not this one. “big version” Over seven hours, so christened its director when selling the international exploitation rights to MGM.

Who would never design it like this would be crippled to reduce it by more than five hours within a few months of purchase. Did the studio heads suspect that they were about to give birth to one of the greatest sea serpents in movie history, who with this (re)release gives himself the biggest gift since his centenary?

A “monster” job

Many, however, decided and gave up the idea that one day they would see this Napoleon as his author had imagined. who, like the emperor whose fortunes he narrates, allowed himself to be overcome by his ambition. A resignation that won even those who knew that the restoration work of the French cinema began in 2007.

Directed by director and researcher Georges Mourier, the work should take a maximum of six months. It would take thirty-two times more, or sixteen years in all, to put together this ghost film, a real puzzle whose pieces were scattered across the four corners of the earth, in different states, and without relying on a negative that no longer exists.

George Mourier says about this in an interview CNCPublished on July 4th, the day of the world premiere, it describes “monster”. One thing followed another, the director and his team found themselves with a thousand boxes containing fragments of this Napoleon, which then had to be sorted and organized.

Or even exclude: “For example, in one of them there were indeed pictures from a film about Napoleon, but it was a Pate film from 1909, nothing to do with Gans!” His team also opposes the other side of the myth and legend coin, namely, generating preconceived ideas that fuel imaginations, to the extent that “80% of the information listed in the Cinémathèque database” were wrong.

Albert Dieudonné

word “Titanic” Therefore, it is more appropriate than ever to qualify this task. which begins with the so-called “expertise”and made it possible to create a low-res montage of this in June 2012 “big version”. whose renaissance was just beginning.

Established in 2017, thanks to the CNC Selective Aid Commission for the Digitization and Restoration of Works of Cinematic Heritage (as well as Netflix, the current patron of the Cinémathèque Française, who joined the adventure two years later), the restoration still has to be avoided. Obstacles, often of a material nature.

“First we had to defragment the film that was blown up like a puzzle all over the world and homogenize the textures because there’s no more negatives.”– says Georges Mourier. “We were ahead, waiting for certain technical advances to make this work possible. The engineer in turn was looking for the best way to find the spectrum of original hues…”

This movie is 100 years old and makes hearts race!

Apart from the image, the sound is also a major challenge. Or rather his music, which did not have an original score. On the basis of nearly three centuries of orchestral works (since A heroic symphony From Beethoven to Berlioz’s version Marseillaise), the Franco-American composer Simon Cloquet-Lafolie also completed this venture, the scope of which goes beyond impact.

Like the movie itself: “Incredibly youthful and modern!”Georges Mourier lights up. Before his death, Georges Sadoul wrote: “Certain scenes open the way to a cinematic language that is still unexplored”.

Among these sequences is the famous final triptych. About twenty minutes, filmed using three cameras, during which the image expands and covers three screens arranged one after the other. Abel Gance’s way of getting into Napoleon’s thoughts defied the restrictions of the time to shoot underwater or keep the cameras moving.

A look at the legendary triptych

A little less than a hundred years later, the (very) feature film has not lost its formal modernity. If the issue is discussed more today, its release in our theaters (in two parts, each lasting more than three hours) makes it a major event, as it is synonymous with a dream come true for many moviegoers.

If the expression “Like You’ve Never Seen Before” Sometimes used indiscriminately, this description is quite justified “big version” by Abel Gans of Napoleon. And it lets you take part in movie history this Wednesday, July 10.

Source: Allocine

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