One of the long-awaited crown jewels of silent cinema will be seen in its full glory soon. 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 will now premiere this summer in Paris.

This new version will hold its world premiere across two evenings on July 4 and 5 at the Seine Musicale, located in the western suburbs of Paris, according to a news release (with a hat tip to our friend Peter Labuza). This special screening will feature a new live score by over 250 musicians from the National Orchestra of France, the Radio France Philharmonic Orchestra, and the Radio France Choir, under the direction of Frank Strobel, and feature Beethoven’s Heroic Symphony, the Marseillaise orchestrated by Berlioz, and more.

Split into two parts (the first 3 hours and 40 minutes, the second 3 hours and 25 minutes), 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, for which he spent much of his life working on and was finally released on Blu-ray and DVD in 2016. See the trailer for that version below as we await more details on this new definitive version, sure to be the cinematic event of the year.

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