Napoleon (1927 Dir. Abel Gance)

BFI National Archive   |   UK

Country of Origin of cited work: France First Transmission / Publication Date since restoration: 2016-11-6 Where published (Channel/Website) since restoration: Programme Duration (mins): 332 Number of episodes in Series (If applicable): Brief Synopsis in English (up to 100 words): Abel Gance's heroic depiction of the rise of Napoleon Bonaparte is an undisputed cinema landmark. Famed for its groundbreaking technical innovations " including its famous triptych finale " and a running time of 5 1/2 hours, Gance's epic traverses many of the formative experiences that shaped Napoleon's rapid advancement. Cool under pressure, Bonaparte overcomes fierce rivals, the deadly Terror and political machinations to seal his imperial destiny. Monumental and visionary, the story's chapters play out in exhilarating fashion tied together by an incredible feat of photography, editing and technical ingenuity. Reason for submission in English (up to 100 words): Kevin Brownlow's restoration of Napoleon is legendary and represents the greatest example of a film's rescue from misunderstanding and unavailability, pioneering the widespread theatrical revival of silent cinema. Compiled across five decades by the film-maker, archivist and historian, who tracked down surviving prints from archives around the world since he first saw a 9.5mm version as a schoolboy in 1954. Brownlow and his colleagues at Photoplay, initially the late David Gill, and then Patrick Stanbury, worked with the BFI National Archive on a series of reconstructions, the latest of which is now fully available for distribution and Blu-ray release. Further Information 1. The element(s) used for restoration, stating gauge and nature and specific problems associated with them e.g. damage, dispersal of elements and complexity of reconstruction (up to 100 words): The source for restoration was the 35mm black and white negative, itself progressively restored on film over three decades by Photoplay and the BFI. The negative contains shots from a multiplicity of sources and locations, tirelessly identified and assembled by Kevin Brownlow, and announced in the opening titles with an acknowledgement to "the Cinematheque francaise, the CNC and the film archives of the world." These sources varied greatly in terms of contrast, density, definition and ratio, as well as printed-in damage, scratching, instability, flicker and fluctuation. The triptych finale had to be reconstructed for a variety of digital releases. 2. Original and restored aspect ratio and format (up to 100 words): The film was originally shot on 35mm silent black and white negative, full frame 1.33:1. It was released in 35mm silent tinted and toned prints, 1.33:1. Its triptych finale was presented in Gance's Polyvision system, which achieved a 4:1 image by showing three 35mm 1.33:1 images abreast. The digital masters maintain these original ratios, within releases for live performance with orchestra, a music-synced release for 'standard' cinema presentation, and Blu-ray and DVD release. The latter also offered the opportunity to the view the three triptych panels separately and even the possibility to assemble them on three screens. 3. Time since aimed for version was last available. How does this version differ from previous versions e.g. in completeness and improvement in quality (up to 100 words): Kevin Brownlow's reconstruction of the film reached its apogee with the 2000 restoration. Significant improvements to its completeness and image quality were made, alongside Patrick Stanbury's superior graphic representation of the intertitles. The BFI National Archive then created the 35mm tinted and toned print, using original silent-era methods. This new release has been completely regraded from the negative, including an improved rendering of toned and tinted sequences, and the nearly 480,000 images have been rigorously repaired digitally. The film version was screened only 4 times in the UK since the 2000 premiere, accompanied by Carl Davis' indelible score. 4. Where the work was carried out for each title, (including labs and facility houses) and broken down where there are multiple titles in an entry (up to 100 words): All restoration work was supervised by Kevin Brownlow and Patrick Stanbury, alongside Ben Thompson, Charles Fairall and Kieron Webb of the BFI National Archive. The digital mastering work was carried out at Dragon Digital, under the supervision of Paul Wright, and encompassed image repair, grading and colour restoration, the production of all deliverables and Blu-ray/DVD authoring. The 2000 restored film negative was scanned by Joao Oliveira at PresTech Laboratories. The Carl Davis score has been newly recorded and conducted by the composer. It was mixed at Chris Egan Music and the 7.1 mix was made at Pinewood Studios, under Carl Davis' supervision. 5. What methodology was used? (up to 100 words): The project's aim has been to reproduce the Kevin Brownlow restoration with Carl Davis score for cinema and home release. The negative was conformed by Ben Thompson, and scanned using a VistaVision gate to safely capture all changes in frameline position throughout the 29,000ft. Colour references were taken from original frames in the collection of Kevin Brownlow, and an original release print from the Cinematheque francaise for the single-screen ending. Patrick Stanbury undertook a full analysis of the triptych to establish its optimum alignment and synchronisation, including 3 different DCP configurations to allow for single or three-projector presentation. 6. What preservation elements have been generated and where will they be stored? (up to 100 words): * DPX files of scans and restored data on LTO LTFS data tapes * DCDM on LTO LTFS data tapes * DCPs of: Live version (triptych at same height as 1.33:1 feature, for widescreen presentation) Distribution version (triptych to show on one projector) 3 separate triptych panels Gance's single-screen ending * HQ ProRes 4:2:2 files, made from the restored digital masters at the correct running speed All the above elements are stored in the BFI National Archive's Digital Preservation Infrastructure. The restored film elements are kept in the BFI National Archive's Master Film Store, in the appropriately stringent preservation environments. 7. How and where has the restoration been presented and made available to the public? (up to 100 words): The restoration premiere was 6th November, at the Royal Festival Hall, with Carl Davis conducting the Philharmonia Orchestra's performance of his score. * Napoleon will play at over 40 cinemas across the UK by January 2017 * The trailer was acclaimed as 'the most exciting I've seen in recent years' by Mark Kermode and watched over 115,000 times on YouTube * Blu-ray/DVD sold out on its first day of release (21 November 2016)