1927, TSPDT Rank #108
Another silent film. This one is much longer (about four hours in the Francis Ford Coppola restoration, which is still much shorter than the film originally was), and is impressive mostly for its technical complexity. The editing was the best of anything in silent film, and has rarely been matched in sound film any time since. It works to show you violence, power, exhilaration, and wonder with just the way the frames are arranged. At one point there's a split screen going on (during an epic pillow fight at Napoleon Bonaparte's boarding school) with nine different views going on at once. The last reel was filmed to be projected on three huge screens, with three separate images on 70mm film. The spectacle of this is diminished on Coppola's VHS release from the early '80s (the only one available on video), but it still sends chills down your spine realizing how amazing this would have looked in the theater on these huge screens. As far as plot goes, it's the story of Napoleon's rise to power from his beginnings in the previously mentioned boarding school. It was the first in a planned series of seven (obvious budgetary restrictions stopped this from ever happening, as Abel Gance ran the production company practically bankrupt), so it ends with Napoleon marching his enormous army into the first battle in his Italian campaign, with promise of a great ascension to power still to follow. When it's over, you feel you've seen something big, but you can't get that true feeling that you would get in the theater. Still worth seeing.