When it comes to summer blockbusters, it doesn’t get much more epic than a film that first premiered nearly a century ago. For nearly two decades work has been underway to restore Abel Gance’s 1927 epic Napoleon to as close as possible to its “Apollo version,” a seven-hour cut that screened at the Apollo Theatre in Paris in 1927. As led by Georges Mourier and backed by Cinémathèque Française, with financing from Centre national du cinéma et de l’image animée and Netflix, among others, this definitive version of one of the long-awaited crown jewels of silent cinema screened its first part at the Cannes Film Festival. Now, both parts (the first 3 hours and 40 minutes, the second 3 hours and 25 minutes) will be opening in France on July 10.

This version is 16 years in the making and cost about $3 million, according to reports. Described as “a mixture of detective work, digital wizardry, and extraordinary dedication,” the restoration utilizes Gance’s production notes and various footage scattered around the globe to piece together the director’s original vision, which was previously re-edited numerous times after completion, with some 22 versions in existence.

“Using a mix of chemical processes and the latest digitization techniques, they have managed to restore missing frames and turn the whole film into a high-definition print that promises to maintain the ‘soul and feel’ of the celluloid original,” notes France24.

This new version from Mourier, which was originally targeting a premiere in 2021 on the 200th anniversary of Napoleon’s death, comes on the heels of Kevin Brownlow’s 5.5-hour version, on which he spent much of his life and was finally released on Blu-ray and DVD in 2016.

See the first trailer and poster for this “definitive version” below.

No more articles