New Jersey Film Festival

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This article was prepared for the April 3, 2002 edition of

U.S. 1 Newspaper. All rights reserved.

At the Movies

Long before the really big-budget, blockbuster


movie there were visions of grandeur germinating in every corner of

the nascent film industry. The same year Al Jolson took the industry

by storm with "The Jazz Singer," the first sound picture,

French filmmaker Abel Gance was busy perfecting his own epic —

a 240-minute silent masterpiece. "Napoleon" premiered at the

Paris Opera in 1927, even as the silent genre was starring its own

doomed future in the face.

Filmmaker and Rutgers curator Al Nigrin celebrates the Rutgers Film

Co-Op’s 20th anniversary with "Napoleon." One of his favorite

weaknesses, Gance’s anachronistic marvel was painstakingly


and restored by Kevin Brownlow in 1981.

The one-night-only screening features the original 240-minute version

of "Napoleon," a heroically sympathetic portrait of the French

ruler who was as doomed as the silent film genre. Gance’s innovations

included a groundbreaking triple-screen format, each monochrome screen

tinted in a different color, for its rousing finale.

In the "bottom line" department, the length and technical

virtuosity of Gance’s effort defeated its commercial distribution.

When MGM released the film in the U.S. it was cut to 75 minutes. Only

the basic storyline was left intact, even as its innovation,


bravura, and pyrotechnics rested silently on the cutting-room floor.

The film’s reconstruction, roughly 50 years after the original


depended on some brilliant sleuthing by film historian Kevin Brownlow.

It was also a labor of love for Francis Ford Coppola and his father,

Carmine Coppola, who composed and conducted the live orchestral


at its 1981 Radio City Music Hall release. The New York audience of

1981 there greeted their efforts with as much enthusiasm as had


in 1927.

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New Jersey Film Festival

Napoleon, New Jersey Film Festival, Scott Hall 123,

College Avenue, New Brunswick, 732-932-8482. Rutgers Film Co-Op’s

20th anniversary features the 1927 epic silent masterpiece, directed

by Abel Gance. $10. Saturday, April 6, 7 p.m.

Wings of Desire, directed by Wim Wenders (1987), Friday

and Sunday, April 5 and 7. Napoleon directed by Abel Gance,

Saturday, April 6. The Town is Quiet, directed by Robert


(2001), Friday to Sunday, April 12 to 14.

Blossoms of Fire, directed by Maureen Gosling (2001);

Also Hybrid, directed by Monteith McCollum (2001), Friday to

Sunday, April 19 to 22. Peanuts and Grain, directed by Albert

Gabriel Nigrin (1995 & 2002), free at Borders, Wednesday, April 24.

Gloria (1980), directed by John Cassavettes, Friday, April

26. Everything For a Reason, directed by Vlas Parlapanides


Saturday, April 27.

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