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The chef d'ouevre of legendary French filmmaker Abel Gance, the 235-minute Napoleon was supposed to have been the first installment in a multipart film study of the French military hero. Each of the film's set pieces is treated like a movie in itself: the opening pillow fights and snowball battles, staged while Napoleon is still a schoolboy (played by Russian youth Vladimir Roudenko), are choreographed on a scale worthy of D.W. Griffith. The plot proper begins with Napoleon's adult years. From home island of Corsica, Lt. Napoleon (played as an adult by Albert Dieudonné, and old… More
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 90%

Critic Reviews from Rotten Tomatoes

"There is in this edition of the picture an effort to cover too many historical incidents and the consequence is that quite a number of the passages are confused."
‑ Mordaunt Hall, New York Times
"Gance uses techniques not much associated with silent film, like a hand-held camera, multiple superimpositions, split split screen, rapid-fire editing and flashbacks to rivet the audience's attention and bring history to vivid life."
‑ Lou Lumenick, New York Post
"It turned out to be a commercial flop because the film cost too much to make."
‑ Dennis Schwartz, Ozus' World Movie Reviews
"... a cinematic experience like no other."
‑ Sean Axmaker, Parallax View
"An extraordinary artifact from another culture, a mythology as remarkable and as alien as the Epic of Gilgamesh or the Icelandic Eddas."
‑ Steven D. Greydanus, Decent Films Guide
"Like D.W. Griffith, Orson Welles, Steven Spielberg, and George Lucas, but mostly James Cameron, Gance understood the thrill of the cinematic event and had the hubris to bring it off."
‑ Wesley Morris, Boston Globe
"The experience it provides - at times, akin to taking a drug - is unlike anything I've ever experienced in a movie theater."
‑ Mick LaSalle, San Francisco Chronicle
"Gance's use of subjective camera was almost recklessly ambitious in its bid to give the spectator the most visceral viewing sensation, while his skill in blending and multiplying images was unprecedented."
‑ David Parkinson, Empire Magazine
"Every bit as remarkable now as it was in its day."
‑ , Film4
"Fascinating, experimental, ahead of its time"
‑ Ken Hanke, Mountain Xpress (Asheville, NC)
"Napoleon is the last great silent epic. We will not see its like again."
‑ Roger Ebert, Chicago Sun-Times
"Albert Dieudonne in the title role is excellent."
‑ Variety Staff, Variety
"In this case the form itself is equal to the subject. For Gance and for Napoleon, there are no small gestures."
‑ Jeffrey M. Anderson, Combustible Celluloid
"the finest moments are the quieter ones that paint a more human picture of the adult Napoleon"
‑ John A. Nesbit, Old School Reviews
"Abel Gance's visionary silent epic Napoleon is a dazzling display of cinematic virtuosity."
‑ , TV Guide's Movie Guide
More reviews for Napoléon on Rotten Tomatoes