By Leonard Maltin | Leonard Maltin March 5, 2012 at 1:00AM
The San Francisco Silent Film Festival’s landmark screening of Abel Gance’s epic Napoleon with Carl Davis conducting a live orchestra is less than three weeks away. You don’t want to kick yourself afterwards for missing out on this experience: Kevin Brownlow’s 5½ hour restoration, in 35mm, with its revolutionary three-screen tryptich finale, in the beautifully restored, 3,000-seat Paramount Theatre in Oakland, California, accompanied by the Oakland East Bay Symphony. If you’re still on the fence about spending the money to travel there and purchase the not-inexpensive tickets, I would direct you to a list of Frequently Asked Questions about this two-weekend event.
In this informative rundown you will learn why this performance of Napoleon cannot be repeated in other cities (as the 1981 presentation was, following its debut at Radio City Music Hall in Manhattan), why a DVD or Blu-ray release with Davis’ orchestral score is unlikely, and other vital facts.
My wife and I have purchased our tickets and can’t wait to revisit the film after a thirty-year hiatus. (We were at Radio City Music Hall on opening night, and were also present when Kevin Brownlow first presented his lovingly-assembled reconstruction of Napoleon at the Telluride Film Festival, with director Gance in attendance.)
If you can’t make the trip, you can at least enjoy the newly-commissioned poster by the celebrated Paul Davis, which can be purchased online.