Synopsis by Clarke Fountain
Using materials from 1927 and 1936 versions of his classic film Napoleon vu par Abel Gance (hence the presence of several individuals in the cast and credits who had since died), director Gance was able to restore and reconstruct it for modern audiences. This four-hour-long version was made possible through the efforts of Claude Lelouche and the Centre Du Cinema of the French government. It contains scenes which were newly shot for this release, and has an introduction in which Gance explains what his original intentions were for the film, and why the silent version was unavailable for so long. One of the cinematic innovations remaining from those earlier versions is the use of a triply split screen. Gance originally shot at higher film speeds (20 frames per second) than most of his contemporaries. The higher film speed yielded smoother-looking movement (acceptable to modern viewers) and aided in studio dubbing. Among the legendary actors appearing in the film are Koubitzky, Antonin Artaud and Annabella. The story of the film covers the rise of Napoleon during the French Revolution through to the Italian Campaign, which propelled him to power. The full terror of the Revolution is shown, with a menacing performance by Antonin Artaud as Marat. Gance himself appears as the revolutionary apologist, St. Just.