18 July 2011

Abel was I

Here is some very exciting news! The San Francisco Silent Film Festival is presenting Abel Gance's astonishing 1927 film Napoleon, complete with three-screen finale and the Oakland East Bay Symphony performing Carl Davis's score, at Oakland's Paramount Theater on March 24, 25, 31, and April 1 2012.

I have seen the film twice before (once in the 1970s as a fund-raiser for the Pacific Film Archive and then again in Boston when it toured in the early 1980s) and didn't hesitate to buy my tickets -- that's plural because I'm going twice -- for this screening. The great historian of silent cinema, Kevin Brownlow, who has devoted much of his life to putting this film back together, has added in a missing 30+ minutes of film that have been discovered since the last tour, so this will be the most complete showing of the film since 1927 (and currently the Oakland engagement is the only showing planned in the United States). Because of the three-screen finale, Napoleon really does need to be experienced in a theater. It's unforgettable.

Napoleon is now 5 1/2 hours long and will be performed starting in the afternoon each day with three intermissions (including a dinner break). Tickets are available now through the San Francisco Silent Film Festival's website. It's reserved seating (for which I am grateful) and the prices range quite a bit, so you may want to think about where you want to sit before clicking, since it's Ticketmaster and you have bare minutes to complete each screen -- quite the D W Griffith climactic race.

I don't usually say this, but this is not to be missed.

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