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Napoleon (TV Miniseries) (3-Disc Collector's Edition)
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From the campaign that transformed the Corsican outsider into a French hero to his bitter, final defeat at Waterloo, NAPOLEON charts the course of the man who defied centuries of tradition and forced his will upon a continent. Adapted by Didier Decoin (Les Miserables, Jakob the Liar) from Max Gallo's bestselling novel, this epic production explores the private struggles, political intrigues and bloody battles that marked Napoleon's tempestuous rise and rule. Directed by Yves Simoneau (Nuremburg, Amelia Earhart), NAPOLEON boasts an extraordinary international cast featuring Isabella Rossellini, Gerard Depardieu, John Malkovich, and Christian Clavier.
One of the Great Lives gets the full-scale miniseries treatment in this lavish international co-production (which aired on A&E). Even at a six-hour running time, there's barely room for all the extraordinary twists and turns of Napoleon Bonaparte's turbulent career as Emperor of France, from his brilliant early military victories after the Revolution to his megalomaniacal attempts to reign over all of Europe. While there are battle scenes galore, and court ceremonies staged with eye-popping pomp and circumstance, this production keeps returning to the intent, watchful face of Christian Clavier's Napoleon. The hawk-eyed, pint-sized actor appears born to play the role, and he draws out the humanity within the icon. Clavier dominates the film, although Isabella Rossellini's Josephine is heartfelt enough to convince you of the passion between these two, which later turned into a kind of pragmatic contract. (Hard to keep your love life straight when you're trying to rule the world.) John Malkovich, in his exquisite-decadent mode, provides amoral political advice as Talleyrand. Napoleon has the usual problems of international moviemaking, including the toneless line readings of supporting actors and the patchwork of accents. And it must move from A to B to C in predictable fashion, the curse of the historical biography. Abel Gance's silent epic Napoleon remains the cinematic standard for this life, but A&E's version gives a satisfying dramatic overview. --Robert Horton
- Aspect Ratio : 1.33:1
- Is Discontinued By Manufacturer : No
- MPAA rating : s_medNotRated NR (Not Rated)
- Product Dimensions : 7.75 x 5.5 x 1 inches; 10.88 Ounces
- Item model number : 2253161
- Media Format : Multiple Formats, Box set, Collector's Edition, Color, Full Screen, NTSC
- Run time : 8 hours
- Release date : April 29, 2003
- Actors : Christian Clavier, Isabella Rossellini, Gérard Depardieu, John Malkovich, Anouk Aimée
- Producers : Adam Betteridge, Alex Marshall, Claude Léger, David Craig, David Rogers
- Language : English (Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo), Unqualified
- Studio : A&E Home Video
- ASIN : B00008IOWU
- Writers : Didier Decoin, Max Gallo
- Number of discs : 3
- Best Sellers Rank: #44,950 in Movies & TV (See Top 100 in Movies & TV)
- Customer Reviews:
Top reviews from the United States
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This miniseries has a strong French flavour and point of view. The casting, much of it decided by Depardieu who even had his own son play one of Napoleon soldiers, is exceptional: Isabella Rosellini as Josephine; Gerard Depardieu as Fouche; John Malkovitch as Talleyrand; all deliver astounding performances in amazing settings. My only comment is that Christian Clavier, the actor selected to play Napoleon, is too calm and collected and fails to depict Napoleon as a mass of boundless energy and motion, the true ectomorph that was Napoleon. But he still delivers a very creditable, intense performance. A good balance of Napoleon's personal and military life nicely intertwined: the story of a brilliant military hero at the mercy of his love for Josephine--initially an attraction for her many high placed social contacts and her womanly charms--as well as his very demanding, power hungry, large immediate family. A very well done series that attempts and delivers a lot. Well worth watching more than once.
Christian Clavier is too old to play the young Napoleon (and remember that this man became sole ruler of France at age 35). Isabella Rossalini is also much too old to play the young Josephine de Beauhernais, who was 32 when she met Napoleon, but she is a very fine actress and does a good job with the role.
Interestingly, the Battle of Lodi is depicted, but inexplicably made into a loss rather than a victory, which is strange because it was at Lodi that Napoleon became convinced he was chosen by destiny for great things. Generally, the battles are not given much coverage, but staging Napoleonic-era battles has proven prohibitively expensive even for big-budget cinema, never mind television. There are a few great scenes of Napoleon surrounded by his Old Guard, complete with bear-skin hats. There is also a great scene of Murat leading a heavy cavalry charge (curaissiers with breastplates and helmuts) at the battle of Eylau. (Think about what percentage of the Napoleonic-era European gross national product was plowed into military uniforms, considering that we cannot afford to reproduce very many of them today for purposes of Television or Motion Pictures).
The most puzzling ommission is the 1812 campaign in Russia; it was the disaster that doomed Napoleon, but it gets less than 5 minutes of screen time in this six-hour miniseries.
The production values are sky-high for television. Apparently, the producers were given access to every palace they wanted to film in.
Top reviews from other countries
The series opens with Napoleon at St Helena reminiscing about his past, before we are quickly taken back to Paris in the year 1795 (i.e. Post-Toulon) and his firing on the Royalists in the Rue St Honore (the "whiff of grapeshot"), so he is already twenty-six years old. We then follow his career until his death on St Helena. It is only at the end that we are introduced to flashbacks of his youth. This unfortunately does not work and only appears as a clumsy way of bringing in these details in the final edit.
This is a Franco-Canadian-British made-for-TV series with very high production values. Indeed, Wikipedia says it was the most expensive European TV production. I am loath to be too critical about the series, which comes in four ninety-minute episodes, given the huge organisation that would be involved in filming. But I list my criticisms below, but follow this up with some positive things to say too.
1. Despite a good opening theme, I found the music to be too intrusive, when the words or actions should speak for themselves, or even allow for differing interpretations.
2. Everything is so clean. Not just the streets, and the clothing, and the teeth, but the actions too can sometimes be too clean-cut.
3. The screenplay is often full of conscious exposition as well as cliché: thus Napoleon on his weeding day - "Tonight I have a woman to love; tomorrow I must take Italy back from Austria."
4. The battle scenes employ countless extras, but not so countless as to show manpower deficiencies. (Compare Bondarchuk's `War and Peace' and `Waterloo', but then he had the masses of the Red Army to use as extras.)
I found Christian Clavier to be quite a persuasive Napoleon. He plays him as a determined and stubborn man, a man with few doubts. Clavier has to carry a lot, as the basis for the series is Max Gallo's book that placed Napoleon as the `first-person singular' of the narrative. Thus, there is barely a scene without him in it and no scene where his spirit is not present. This also means no Nelson or Wellington, but in compensation we have cameos of Sieyes and Roger Ducos, Isabey and David, even Percier and Fontaine.
The series was filmed at many of the original places, such as St Helena and Malmaison. Of course neither St Cloud nor the Tuileries now exist, but fine alternatives have been found. But Egypt was shot in Morocco, and the Russian retreat was shot in Canada. These do not matter, for sand is sand and snow is snow the world over (more or less). However, my main gripe about the locations is that all the rural shots look the same, whether it is supposed to be Spain or Poland.
Some actors do well - the four main players, in particular - but others are quite wooden. The worst offender is Claudio Amendola as Murat. We should be thankful that it was not tempted to focus purely on the set-piece battles (but note that there is not even a mention of Leipzig as he fell back on France). Thus we see much of Napoleon's private life and family, as well as events such as the kidnapping as the Duc d'Enghien. We do not, however, see much of Napoleon the strategist, for at times it appeared as if he engaged troops at his whim. Historically, the series is accurate enough to suggest only a small number of minor historical errors on Wikipedia.
So, what about the extras? These are four in number. First, there is a twenty-minute `making of'; secondly there is a forty-five minute 1997 American documentary called `Napoleon Bonaparte: The Glory of France'. This makes good and extensive use of contemporary paintings and other illustrations, as well as filming places that feature in his biography. It is a straightforward narrative of his life, not his battles (except for Waterloo). Thirdly, we have a ninety-minute documentary entitled `Napoleon and Wellington' by the same American team and of the same date. It is as detailed as ninety minutes will allow, but does not seem to come with any specific additional filming. The first hour looks at their respective lives up to Napoleon's return from Elba before we then revisit the Battle of Waterloo (with its `Belgian' troops; they were Dutch troops, for Belgium was not created until 1830!). Finally, we have cast (text) biographies of Christian Clavier, Gerard Depardieu, Isabella Rossellini and John Malkovich.
To the question as to whether I would forego these extras for the widescreen version of the DVD, my answer is that I do not think these additional films are that special and I think such a life demands it be shown in widescreen.
C'est correct avec moi, parlant les deux langues, mais bon, je ne pourrai pas l'utiliser en classe comme je le voulais. Dommage!