This documentary focuses on the making of the 235-minute, silent epic Napoleon, the masterpiece of French director/writer/actor Abel Gance. Napoleon showcased Gance's talents with the camera, his use of multiple-images (like a split screen), and his handling of crowded action scenes -- all brought forward in this documentary by his later assistant, Nelly Kaplan. While Gance was shooting Napoleon in 1925-26, he and his crew were also being filmed for a documentary titled Autour de Napoleon. The only extant reels from that documentary are included in this film, as well as views of Gance's unique "triptychs" -- three different scenes lined up side-by-side across a super-wide screen to convey the effect of a panorama, or of three separate interludes. Nelly Kaplan put together this documentary using old footage, such as Gance filming the famous snowball fight at the Brienne military school (with the cameraman running among the snowballers, camera strapped to his chest), and still photographs and excerpts from Gance's production diaries. Gance bequeathed his private archives to Kaplan on his death, just three years before this 1984 documentary was released.
by Eleanor Mannikka synopsis