Revival of Gance’s Iconic ‘Napoléon’ to Open Cannes Classics at the 77th Festival de Cannes

Still from the film Napoléon © La Cinémathèque française
Still from the film Napoléon © La Cinémathèque française

Short Summary:

At the 77th Festival de Cannes, 'Napoléon' by Abel Gance (1927) is set to open Cannes Classics following a comprehensive restoration by Cinémathèque française. This premiere marks the return of the silent era masterpiece nearly a century after its debut.

In a remarkable achievement for film preservation, the Cinémathèque française, with support from the CNC (French Ministry of Culture), has meticulously restored Abel Gance's legendary silent film, 'Napoléon'. The restoration, spanning over sixteen years, will make its grand reveal at the Cannes Film Festival's Classics section on May 14, almost a century since its original release.

'Napoléon', known for its historical grandeur and cinematic innovations, including the revolutionary use of horse-mounted cameras and a triptych sequence, was first premiered in 1927 at the Paris Opera. The presence of notable figures like French President Gaston Doumergue highlighted its initial grandeur. However, with the transition to sound films, 'Napoléon' suffered numerous edits, losing much of its original narrative and visual integrity.

The project was spearheaded by Georges Mourier, who, along with his team, undertook the painstaking process of piecing together the original version using various sources found across Europe and the United States. This reconstruction involved reviewing around 100 kilometers of film reels and extensive research into Gance’s editing notes.

This restoration not only revives the first part of this cinematic giant, which runs for three hours and forty minutes, but also sets the stage for an extraordinary screening event. Following its premiere at Cannes, 'Napoléon' will be shown in its entirety at the Seine Musicale in Paris with a live performance of its musical score by 250 musicians from Radio France, enhancing the cinematic experience. Additional screenings will take place at various French venues and on France Télévisions, with an eventual release on Netflix.

This project reflects the commitment of the film preservation community and highlights the cultural importance of restoring classic films, enabling new generations to experience cinema history. The restoration and premiere of 'Napoléon' at Cannes underscore the ongoing relevance of silent films and their impact on both historical and contemporary filmmaking.