Art and Experience: The BFI (British Film Institute) has announced a digitally restored re-release of Abel Gance’s 1920’s epic Napoleon, about the French conqueror. This project has been in the works for 50 years, with Academy Award-winning film historian Kevin Brownlow traveling the world collecting old prints of Gance’s Napoleon in order to piece together this fully-restored version. The silent film runs a full 5 1/2 hours in total, and is accompanied by a live orchestra score. Ever since the previous restoration in 2000, the film version has only been screened 4 times in the UK. This announcement from the BFI is only for a UK re-release so far, but we also expect it to show up over here soon, too. It will premiere in November of 2016.

The full press release (via The Arts Shelf) mentions that this new digital restoration of Napoleon will have its premiere screening with a live performance by the Philharmonia Orchestra of Carl Davis’ score (the longest ever composed for a silent film) in early November 2016 at the Royal Festival Hall. The film will also eventualy be released on DVD/Blu-ray and through the BFI Player. “This project has been achieved thanks to major work undertaken by the experts of the BFI National Archive and Photoplay Productions working with Dragon DI post-production in Wales, and to the generosity of Carl Davis and Jean Boht.”

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. It was first released in France in 1927, but didn’t arrive in the US until 1929.

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