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A view on Blu-ray by Gary W. Tooze

Napoleon (3-Disc Blu-ray Set) [Blu-ray]

 

(Abel Gance, 1927)

 

 

Review by Gary Tooze

 

Production:

Theatrical: Ciné France

Video: BFI

 

Discs:

Region: 'B' (as verified by the Oppo Blu-ray player)

Runtime: 1:53:43.291 + (Act 2 - 1:03:34, Act 3 - 1:47:08) 2:50:45.791 + (Act 4) 0:48:34.458

Disc One (Act One) Size: 41,975,915,461 bytes

Disc Two  (Acts 2 + 3) Size: 49,768,370,253 bytes

Disc Three  (Act 4) Size: 48,715,371,172 bytes

Act 1 Size: 31,346,578,944 bytes

Acts 2 + 3 Size: 42,712,768,512 bytes

Act 4 Size: 12,586,444,800 bytes

Video Bitrate: 27.57 Mbps / 24.39 Mbps / 25.21 Mbps

Chapters: 12 + 16 + 10

Case: Custom Blu-ray case (see photo below)

Release date: November 21st, 2016

 

Video:

Aspect ratio: 1.33:1 - (Act 4) 1.38:1

Resolution: 1080p / 24 fps

Video codec: MPEG-4 AVC Video

 

Audio:

DTS-HD Master Audio English 4757 kbps 7.1 / 48 kHz / 4757 kbps / 24-bit (DTS Core: 5.1 / 48 kHz / 1509 kbps / 24-bit)
LPCM Audio English 2304 kbps 2.0 / 48 kHz / 2304 kbps / 24-bit
Commentary:

Dolby Digital Audio English 192 kbps 2.0 / 48 kHz / 192 kbps

 

Intertitles:

English

 

Extras:

Feature-length commentary by Dr. Paul Cuff

The Charm of Dynamite (Kevin Brownlow, 1968, 51:34): BBC documentary on Glance's Silent films, narrated by Lindsay Anderson
Composing Napoleon - An Interview with Carl Davis) (2016, 45:42)
Napoleon digital restoration featurette (2016, 5 mins)
Stills and Special Collections Gallery (11:27)
Alternative single-screening ending (played in isolation or with Act 4)
Individual triptych panel presentations (21:20)
Illustrated 60-page book with writing by Paul Cuff, Kevin Brownlow and Hervé Dumont, an extensive interview with Carl Davis; and full film, music and restoration credits

 

Bitrates:

1) BFI (Disc 1) - Region 'B' - Blu-ray TOP

2) BFI (Disc 2) - Region 'B' - Blu-ray MIDDLE

3) BFI (Disc 3) - Region 'B' - Blu-ray BOTTOM

 

 

 

 

Description: Marking a new chapter in the history of one of the world's greatest films, the release of Abel Gance's Napoleon is the culmination of a project spanning 50 years. Digitally restored by the BFI National Archive and Academy Award-winning film historian Kevin Brownlow, this cinematic triumph is available to experience on Blu-ray for the very first time.

Originally conceived by Gance as the first of six films about Napoleon, this five-and-a-half-hour epic features full-scale historical creations of episodes from his personal and political life, that see Bonaparte overcome fierce rivals and political machinations to seal his imperial destiny.

Utilising a number of groundbreaking cinematic techniques, Napoleon is accompanied by Carl Davis monumental score (newly recorded in 7.1), and offers one of the most thrilling experiences in the entire history of film.

 

 

The Film:

This ambitious Silent film, renowned for its groundbreaking camerawork and editing, portrays the early life of French ruler Napoleon Bonaparte (Albert Dieudonne), beginning with his childhood and ending with a successful military campaign in Italy. A native of Corsica, Napoleon becomes a staunch supporter of his island home, but eventually flees due to conflicts with its leadership. Once settled on the French mainland, Napoleon begins his climb up the military ranks.

Excerpt from MRQE located HERE

 

The story behind Abel Gance's Napoleon (1927) is as exciting as the film. A masterpiece adventure originally running nearly seven hours, it breaks new ground with practically every shot, was filmed with techniques twenty-five years ahead of its time, and was rescued from oblivion by an obsessed teenager.

French director Abel Gance conceived an ambitious plan to film the life of the famous French leader in the early 1920s and, during a trip to America, even sought out D.W. Griffith to get his blessing for the project. Six feature films were to have presented a comprehensive biography of Napoleon but after a two-year struggle, Gance only succeeded in completing the first film before he ran out of money and time.

A tireless inventor, Gance devised new ways of presenting his story. To show his hero's rapidly calculating mind, Gance splashed on screen shots containing up to sixteen superimpositions. A pillow fight becomes a flurry of feathers and action as the screen divides itself into four, then nine, separate images. This was not achieved in the lab; for each effect the film had to be exposed and re-exposed in the camera by means of complex calculations.

Excerpt from TCM located HERE

Image :    NOTE: The below Blu-ray captures were taken directly from the Blu-ray disc.

Abel Gance's Napoleon is advertised as a "New 2K restoration" transfer to Blu-ray from BFI actually described in the opening text screen as a "Restoration by the BFI National Archive and Photoplay Productions".


Kevin Brownlow began his reconstruction of Abel Gance's Napoleon in 1969 and it later became a collaboration with the BFI National Archive. In 2000, this extended version was produced, making full use of all the additional footage which has since been discovered.

This new digital restoration has been made from the 2000 film negative. It has been completely re-graded and the original tints and tones reproduced throughout. Using advanced restoration tools, the image has been stabilized, damage and degradation has been substantially repaired, and the wide range of film sources more closely integrated.   

 

Each of the three discs (as multi-parts) are dual-layered and are 1080p / 24 fps. Bitrates are reasonably high and the image is extremely impressive. The 1080P supports contrast extremely well and the tints are rich and wonderfully realized the 1.33:1 frame (NOTE: the 4th Act - disc 3 - is in about the 1.37-1.38:1 aspect ratio.)  There are still some light scratches but they are minimal and the overall quality is less consistent wholly dependant on the source condition even after the extensive restoration. This Blu-ray does a phenomenal job of showing the film Napoleon in an awe-inspiring, very textured, home theatre presentation. It really allows you to sink into the mood of being there - theatrically-like - to witness this historical marvel of cinema. 

 

CLICK EACH BLU-RAY CAPTURE TO SEE ALL IMAGES IN FULL 1920X1080 RESOLUTION

 

(Intertitle Samples - Click to Enlarge)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Act (Epoch) end/starting title card samples

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Act 4 Aspect ratio is 1.37-1.38:1

 

 

 

 

 

Triptych 4.0:1

 

 

 

Audio :

The music was composed, arranged and conducted by Carl Davis. It comes in the option of a stirring DTS-HD Master 7.1 channel at a whopping 4757 kbps (24-bit) or a simpler, flatter linear PCM 2.0 channel at 2304 kbps. The surround sounds very impressive - often subtle depth is present and it gives a grand, epic feel to the presentation. Marvelous! The option of the LPCM is a good one for those more keen on a less dynamic representation. Often extremely robust audio for Silent films seems unnatural - but I think the DTS-HD becomes a unifying part of the film experience. It is outstanding. The intertitles are English - and also occasionally tinted - see our samples above. My Oppo has identified the 3 discs as being region 'B'-locked.

 

Extras :

I have not yet indulged in the feature-length commentary by Dr. Paul Cuff, Associate Fellow within the Department of Film & Television Studies at The University of Warwick, (author of A Revolution for the Screen: Abel Gance's Napoleon) - so I can't comment yet but appreciate that it is available for such an incredibly long film. There are also some great video extras - The Charm of Dynamite is Kevin Brownlow's 1968, BBC documentary (occasionally seen on TCM) on Glance's Silent films. It is narrated by Lindsay Anderson and runs 50+ minutes. There are some highly interesting shots of Gance and his cameramen shooting some scenes and there are some keen points of discussion about Gance. Composing Napoleon is a new 2016 in interview with Carl Davis about the score and it runs 3/4 of an hour. There is a short, new, piece on the digital restoration featurette, some stills and special collections galleries, alternative single-screening ending (played in isolation or with Act 4) and individual triptych panel presentations (left- 1st disc, center - 2nd, right - 3rd). The package (see image above) has a beautiful-bound illustrated 60-page book with writing by Paul Cuff, Kevin Brownlow and Hervé Dumont, an extensive interview with Carl Davis; and full film, music and restoration credits.

 

Sample menus

 

 

Extras

 

 

BOTTOM LINE:
BFI's Blu-ray package of Napoleon is one of THE most important releases of the entire year.  It seems like our long patience has finally been met with... glory. The presentation is... miraculous and this set is easily going to vie for top spot in our year-end poll. It is also, probably, the most important Silent Era Blu-ray release ever. This is easy to put in the 'must-own' and 'don't hesitate' category for digital librarians everywhere. Our absolute highest recommendation! 

Gary Tooze

November 7th, 2016


 

About the Reviewer: Hello, fellow Beavers! I have been interested in film since I viewed a Chaplin festival on PBS when I was around 9 years old. I credit DVD with expanding my horizons to fill an almost ravenous desire to seek out new film experiences. I currently own approximately 9500 DVDs and have reviewed over 5000 myself. I appreciate my discussion Listserv for furthering my film education and inspiring me to continue running DVDBeaver. Plus a healthy thanks to those who donate and use our Amazon links.

Although I never wanted to become one of those guys who focused 'too much' on image and sound quality - I find HD is swiftly pushing me in that direction.

Gary's Home Theatre:

60-Inch Class (59.58” Diagonal) 1080p Pioneer KURO Plasma Flat Panel HDTV PDP6020-FD

Oppo Digital BDP-83 Universal Region FREE Blu-ray/SACD Player
Momitsu - BDP-899 Region FREE Blu-ray player
Marantz SA8001 Super Audio CD Player
Marantz SR7002 THX Select2 Surround Receiver
Tannoy DC6-T (fronts) + Energy (centre, rear, subwoofer) speakers (5.1)

APC AV 1.5 kVA H Type Power Conditioner 120V

Gary W. Tooze

 

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