Kevin Brownlow's Napoleon

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Dave Glass

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Kevin Brownlow's Napoleon

PostThu Jun 23, 2016 1:25 am

I was privileged to be a witness at a very special event at the weekend. (18th and 19th June 2016).
As I've previously mentioned, Kevin Brownlow hosted a weekend of silent film at the Cinema Museum in London.
(prog details here: http://www.kenningtonbioscope.com/programme/4588841825" target="_blank" target="_blank )
There were many delights, but the one that will stay in my memory forever is when Kevin spoke about 'Napoleon'.
The Cinema Museum is housed in a Lambeth workhouse building where Charlie Chaplin spent his early years.
That in itself, provides a perfect setting for the presentations of silent movies and their stories. The atmosphere is truly amazing.
Well, this particular presentation began simply with David Robinson (Chaplin biographer) reminiscing about the time he was taken by his friend Liam O'Leary (who was in charge of the Irish Film Archive at the time), to a friend's house in London. This was in 1954. They were taken by the friend upstairs to his son's bedroom, which resembled a small cinema. A young 16 year old boy then treated them to a viewing of a 9.5mm film he'd found, which he thought they'd like to see. The boy was Kevin and the film was Napoleon.
Kevin then told the incredible story of discovery that then unfolded. We all know a few details of this film's reconstruction but to hear Kevin himself explain the ups and downs of the journey was an illuminating and hypnotic experience. What made it even more special was the screening of Kevin's 9.5mm 2 reel version of 'Napoleon' as seen by the young David Robinson many years ago.
Of the many delights this weekend provided, this was the unforgettable jewel in the crown.
Thanks to Kevin and everyone involved.

Dave
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bobfells

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Re: Kevin Brownlow's Napoleon

PostThu Jun 23, 2016 8:01 am

Mr. Brownlow wrote a book about the making of NAPOLEON and the incredible story of its reconstruction. The book belongs on all of our bookshelves right next to The Parade's Gone By. Published in 1983, this book is still available in low priced editions:
https://www.amazon.com/Napoleon-Abel-Ga ... n+Brownlow
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Big Silent Fan

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Re: Kevin Brownlow's Napoleon

PostThu Jun 23, 2016 10:20 am

bobfells wrote:Mr. Brownlow wrote a book about the making of NAPOLEON and the incredible story of its reconstruction. The book belongs on all of our bookshelves right next to The Parade's Gone By. Published in 1983, this book is still available in low priced editions:
https://www.amazon.com/Napoleon-Abel-Ga ... n+Brownlow" target="_blank" target="_blank" target="_blank" target="_blank" target="_blank" target="_blank


I could not agree more. That's where my copy is.
As you correctly stated, "Napoleon" is really two parts; Gance's making of the film with all the things that went wrong during production, not to mention the disastrous premiere when film cans were out of order, and then Kevin Brownlow's efforts for so many years to bring the film back into the theatre. This was no small task and Kevin's personal involvement with Gance (from the1960s), to the preparation for the first Radio City Music Hall performance in 1980 when the film speed was changed to satisfy demands from the management have all been recorded here. There have been many challenges since then and even today, the few of us interested in this subject continue to keep the interest alive. All the major players of this story appear in Kevin Brownlow's text.
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WaverBoy

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Re: Kevin Brownlow's Napoleon

PostFri Jun 24, 2016 12:30 am

Perhaps Kevin might consider updating his book at some point; a lot has happened regarding further restoration and mammoth screening events.
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Michael F. Blake

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Re: Kevin Brownlow's Napoleon

PostTue Jun 28, 2016 12:16 pm

All of Kevin's books are must reads.

His NAPOLEON was a happy find for me, and chock full of information. A perfect example to others who wish to write a book about "The Making of..." of how to do it right.
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Mark Zimmer

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Re: Kevin Brownlow's Napoleon

PostTue Jul 05, 2016 10:46 am

WaverBoy wrote:Perhaps Kevin might consider updating his book at some point; a lot has happened regarding further restoration and mammoth screening events.


I would buy that updated book even though I have the original. You're quite correct, a very lot has happened and information about that is both conflicting and unclear, at least from many thousands of miles away.
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TheyHadFaces

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Re: Kevin Brownlow's Napoleon

PostTue Jul 05, 2016 6:24 pm

My favorite anecdote was when Kevin told about how when they ran The Charm of Dynamite before the screening of the restoration, Gance got confused and thought he was running the feature, and got very upset.
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BankofAmericasSweetheart

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Re: Kevin Brownlow's Napoleon

PostWed Jul 06, 2016 11:47 pm

Dave Glass wrote:I was privileged to be a witness at a very special event at the weekend. (18th and 19th June 2016).
As I've previously mentioned, Kevin Brownlow hosted a weekend of silent film at the Cinema Museum in London.
(prog details here: http://www.kenningtonbioscope.com/programme/4588841825" target="_blank" target="_blank" target="_blank )
There were many delights, but the one that will stay in my memory forever is when Kevin spoke about 'Napoleon'.
The Cinema Museum is housed in a Lambeth workhouse building where Charlie Chaplin spent his early years.
That in itself, provides a perfect setting for the presentations of silent movies and their stories. The atmosphere is truly amazing.
Well, this particular presentation began simply with David Robinson (Chaplin biographer) reminiscing about the time he was taken by his friend Liam O'Leary (who was in charge of the Irish Film Archive at the time), to a friend's house in London. This was in 1954. They were taken by the friend upstairs to his son's bedroom, which resembled a small cinema. A young 16 year old boy then treated them to a viewing of a 9.5mm film he'd found, which he thought they'd like to see. The boy was Kevin and the film was Napoleon.
Kevin then told the incredible story of discovery that then unfolded. We all know a few details of this film's reconstruction but to hear Kevin himself explain the ups and downs of the journey was an illuminating and hypnotic experience. What made it even more special was the screening of Kevin's 9.5mm 2 reel version of 'Napoleon' as seen by the young David Robinson many years ago.
Of the many delights this weekend provided, this was the unforgettable jewel in the crown.
Thanks to Kevin and everyone involved.

Dave


I had the privilege of attending the screening of a restored Napoléon in Oakland,California back in 2012 and I think it was the most incredible movie experience I ever witnessed in my life. I was 27 at the time and I'll never forget that moment.
"It would have been more logical if silent pictures had grown out of the talkies instead of the other way around." - MP
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Red Bartlett

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Re: Kevin Brownlow's Napoleon

PostThu Jul 07, 2016 7:44 am

Probably not news to anyone here, but I see BFI announced back in January that they'll be releasing a Blu-ray. I don't believe I saw a date of release, but I imagine it'll be soon... maybe August? I'd imagine there'd be a pre-order if that were the case though.

Either way... can't wait for it! This release would also be a great opportunity to do some nice supplements!!
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rudyfan

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Re: Kevin Brownlow's Napoleon

PostSat Jul 09, 2016 9:29 am

I think the BFI release is November.
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Roscoe

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Re: Kevin Brownlow's Napoleon

PostThu Jul 28, 2016 9:36 am

BFI NAPOLEON available for pre-order:

https://www.amazon.co.uk/Napoleon-3-Dis ... dbeaver-21
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Great Hierophant

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Re: Kevin Brownlow's Napoleon

PostThu Jul 28, 2016 4:18 pm

This is truly grand, I try to splurge on one expensive Blu-ray set every year and this looks like it will be my pick for this year. I really hope they are going to include 3 Blu-rays in this set, the film is too big to fit on a single Blu-ray with the quality we have come to expect. It is too much to hope for my triptch idea with each portion of the final reel stored on a separate disc.
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bigshot

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Re: Kevin Brownlow's Napoleon

PostThu Jul 28, 2016 7:54 pm

Roscoe wrote:BFI NAPOLEON available for pre-order:


Ordered! Thanks!
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Scoundrel

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Re: Kevin Brownlow's Napoleon

PostThu Jul 28, 2016 8:40 pm

Ordered...!!!!

Thank You.
" You can't take life too seriously...you'll never get out of it alive."


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Danny Burk

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Re: Kevin Brownlow's Napoleon

PostThu Jul 28, 2016 8:45 pm

Instantly ordered - more proof that a region-free player is a must.
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Mike Gebert

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Re: Kevin Brownlow's Napoleon

PostThu Jul 28, 2016 11:05 pm

Likewise. Thanks to Roscoe for keeping an eye on this and letting us know.
“Sentimentality is when it doesn't come off—when it does, you get a true expression of life's sorrows.” —Alain-Fournier
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Re: Kevin Brownlow's Napoleon

PostFri Jul 29, 2016 7:18 am

Can be delivered to US! Probably won't make it by Thanksgiving but Merry Christmas to me!
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Bob Furem

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Re: Kevin Brownlow's Napoleon

PostFri Jul 29, 2016 8:10 am

Ordered! Have wanted an all-region blu-ray player for a while. Just needed a little push. Consider me pushed.
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Mark Zimmer

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Re: Kevin Brownlow's Napoleon

PostFri Jul 29, 2016 9:11 am

Ordered. Splendid news. I expect I'll have to get the French one too, but dueling Napoleons is better than none.
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Re: Kevin Brownlow's Napoleon

PostFri Jul 29, 2016 9:37 am

Great Hierophant wrote:I really hope they are going to include 3 Blu-rays in this set, the film is too big to fit on a single Blu-ray with the quality we have come to expect.


https://www.amazon.co.uk/Napoleon-" target="_blank" target="_blank3-Dis ... dbeaver-21
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BrianG

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Re: Kevin Brownlow's Napoleon

PostSat Jul 30, 2016 11:41 am

Now that I've pre-ordered the blu-ray, I need a region-free blu-ray player in the $200 range to see it. Any suggestions for a good one? I don't have a home theater, so I don't need the best, just reliable. I bought a region-free player for a 1983/4 Brownlow restoration dvd I obtained about 10 years ago, but I need a new player for this one.
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Jim Roots

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Re: Kevin Brownlow's Napoleon

PostSat Jul 30, 2016 1:11 pm

BrianG wrote:Now that I've pre-ordered the blu-ray, I need a region-free blu-ray player in the $200 range to see it. Any suggestions for a good one? I don't have a home theater, so I don't need the best, just reliable. I bought a region-free player for a 1983/4 Brownlow restoration dvd I obtained about 10 years ago, but I need a new player for this one.


Wanna borrow my portable one? There's nothing like watching Napoleon, especially the triptych scene, on a six-inch screen!

Jim
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BrianG

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Re: Kevin Brownlow's Napoleon

PostSat Jul 30, 2016 1:27 pm

Jim Roots wrote:Wanna borrow my portable one? There's nothing like watching Napoleon, especially the triptych scene, on a six-inch screen!


No thanks :lol:. Even my 24" pc screen is too small. As I remember, the triptych from 1983 was cramped on my 40" tv, but I don't think I could talk my wife into both a new blu player AND bigger tv for a movie that she will never watch.
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Mike Gebert

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Re: Kevin Brownlow's Napoleon

PostSat Jul 30, 2016 1:55 pm

I bought from this place:

http://www.220-electronics.com

Several choices in the not much over $100 range. Mine (an LG) has been just fine.
“Sentimentality is when it doesn't come off—when it does, you get a true expression of life's sorrows.” —Alain-Fournier
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R. Cat

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Re: Kevin Brownlow's Napoleon

PostSat Jul 30, 2016 2:02 pm

Well, my order's in! HT projection system fired up and ready to go... :D

Image
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bigshot

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Re: Kevin Brownlow's Napoleon

PostSat Jul 30, 2016 7:04 pm

Mine too!

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Red Bartlett

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Re: Kevin Brownlow's Napoleon

PostSat Jul 30, 2016 9:45 pm

:shock: I'll be right over...
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R. Cat

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Re: Kevin Brownlow's Napoleon

PostSun Jul 31, 2016 3:27 am

bigshot wrote:Mine too!

Image



Love your rig! Image

We've also mounted our projector on a vaulted beam...

Image

Alas, our "swordfish" was just out of view in the earlier shot. :lol:

Image

Apologies for getting off topic. Couldn't resist, but I think Napoleon would approve!
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Re: Kevin Brownlow's Napoleon

PostSun Jul 31, 2016 3:54 am

This is a release of the year for sure and I have pre-ordered it too. I am still wondering what will be the next special screening movie after that? There were people all around Europe in the London screening 2013 but how many will travel again to see Napoleon if they can watch it at home?
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R. Cat

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Re: Kevin Brownlow's Napoleon

PostSun Jul 31, 2016 1:48 pm

Murnau wrote:This is a release of the year for sure and I have pre-ordered it too. I am still wondering what will be the next special screening movie after that? There were people all around Europe in the London screening 2013 but how many will travel again to see Napoleon if they can watch it at home?


Good questions. I'd imagine that the audience for European road show engagements of this masterpiece will be limited to a short run in major venues with full symphonic support. In the U.S. the Brownlow version probably won't be shown theatrically again due to rights issues with the competing Francis Ford Coppola/Robert A. Harris version.

The Coppola/Harris restoration will probably get some form of limited road show treatment in major U.S. cities in 2017 featuring an orchestral arrangement of the Carmine Coppola composed score cobbled together with new music. I'm also assuming this version will premiere in France.

Most of what is stated below has been discussed before in other threads/posts, but the question of extended engagements for either restoration will depend on accessibility to a wider audience not predisposed to appreciation of long films, much less silents. This is not an insignificant hurdle.

The Robert A. Harris restoration will probably have some noteable differences from the Brownlow restoration and benefit from Francis Ford Coppola's financial support. This should guarantee some theatrical screenings in the U.S. and, presumably, France. With the kind of funding Coppola and his partners can access, I'd expect a massive digital clean-up of existing footage with 4K restoration.

That said, adding footage doesn't necessarily make a better film experience. The extended length may pose greater problems for Coppola/Harris version for roadshow engagements. I'd expect a soundtrack version to quickly replace any orchestral premiere, and the pacing for the extended version may or may not be as impressive as Brownlow's Gance approved restoration.

The Oakland showings of the Brownlow restoration had three lengthy intermissions, the second being a mid-afternoon lunch break. The full running time of the film is close to 5 1/2 hours, adding in at least two hours for intermissions and a lunch break, that's around 7 1/2 hours. It was a breathtaking experience, overwhelming at times, but enormously satisfying.

The Coppola/Harris restoration with recently "discovered" footage ...that Brownlow somehow missed in his exhaustive worldwide search... is supposed to mimic the original Paris Apollo Theatre premiere at 6 1/2 hours not including intermissions (originally, the Apollo premiere was 9 1/2 hours). In either case, catheter stations may be a prerequisite for roadshow engagements.

The premiere version also lacked the triptych finali included with the shorter roadshow release following the Apollo premiere. For whatever reason the triptych wasn't in the premiere (projection issues, work in progress, etc.), Gance incorporated the sequence in subsequent European showings. This is so integral to the film that I can't imagine the groundbreaking sequence being left out of Coppola's extended release.

For home video, both versions of Napoleon promise a richly rewarding comparison of visions that all film collectors will relish. Conversely, the Coppola extended restoration may pose challenges for filmgoers, concert halls and theaters that are exacerbated by the increased length.

In both instances, these restorations are labors of love. For Kevin Brownlow it's the culmination of his life's work and a homage to the great filmmaker who inspired him. For Coppola, it's a tribute to his late father whose composition graced an earlier albeit much shorter reconstruction of Gance's masterpiece.

The epic length of this post is my homage to Gance; I'm looking forward to the availability of both restorations regardless of the audience each garners.
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