Science Fair Project Encyclopedia
Ahead of its time in its use of handheld cameras and editing, many scenes were hand tinted or toned. Gance had intended a lot of the film to be screened as a triptych via triple projection, or Polyvision . Planned to be the first of six movies about Napoleon Bonaparte, it was realised after the completion of the film that the costs involved would make this impossible.
It was first released in a gala premiere at the Paris Opéra in April 1927. Napoléon had only been screened in eight European cities when Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer bought the rights to the film, but after screening it intact in London, it was cut drastically in length and only the central panel of the widescreen sequences retained before being put on limited release in the United States.
- Albert Dieudonné : Napoléon Bonaparte
- Vladimir Roudenko : Napoléon Bonaparte (child)
- Edmond Van Daële : Maximilien Robespierre
- Alexandre Koubitzky : Georges Danton
- Antonin Artaud : Jean-Paul Marat
- Abel Gance : Louis de Saint-Just
- Gina Manès : Joséphine de Beauharnais
- Suzanne Bianchetti : Marie Antoinette
- Marguerite Gance : Charlotte Corday
- Yvette Dieudonné : Élisa Bonaparte
- Philippe Hériat : Antonio Salicetti
The film historian Kevin Brownlow supervised the reconstruction of the film in 1980 including the Polyvision scenes. This reconstruction was re-edited and released in the United States by American Zoetrope with a score by Carmine Coppola performed live at the screenings. The event brought Gance out of obscurity. Further restoration was made by Brownlow in 1983 and again in 2000, including footage rediscovered by the Cinémathèque Française in Paris. Altogether, 35 minutes of reclaimed film had been added, making the total film length of the 2000 restoration five and a half hours. Also, the tinting and toning processes made by Pathé for the original film were recreated and used in the 2000 restoration.
The film is properly screened in full restoration very rarely; the last screening was at the Royal Festival Hall in London in December 2004, and included a live orchestral score of pastiche classical music arranged and conducted by Carl Davis. The screening itself was the subject of hotly contested legal threats from Francis Ford Coppola via Universal Studios to the British Film Institute over whether or not the latter had the right to screen the film without the Coppola score. Ultimately, the film did screen for both planned days, although there are suggestions that a fight is on the horizon. 
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