It’s a shame, but sometimes the films that benefit most from a theatrical screening don’t actually get shown very often. Lengthy cinephile holy grails such as Jacques Rivette’s sprawling thirteen-hour OUT 1, Bela Tarr’s seven-hour Satantango, or, indeed, Abel Gance’s 333-minute, epic silent film of the life of Napoleon, benefit hugely from the immersion that only a cinema can provide. This November, FACT are offering the chance to watch Gance’s Napoleon – a film described by Stanley Kubrick as “a masterpiece of cinematic invention” – exactly as it was meant to be seen.
On the surface, this is perhaps one for the more committed or adventurous cinema-goer. But, viewers willing to submit to Gance’s vision will find an entertaining, old-fashioned heroic depiction of Napoleon overcoming fierce rivals, deadly seas and political machinations in pursuit of his imperial destiny. A new BFI restoration showcases the films groundbreaking technical innovations, revealing a silent masterpiece of monstrous proportions. Oh, and don’t worry, if, like me, you need the occasional comfort break – there will be three separate intervals for you to stretch your legs.