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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
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.
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.
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.
26. Everything For a Reason, directed by Vlas Parlapanides
Saturday, April 27.
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