Napoléon

During the winter of 2004, there were two very-well-attended screenings of Abel Gance’s Napoléon (1) at the Royal Festival Hall in London. They were accompanied by a new score by Carl Davis, who conducted the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra despite his leg being in a cast due to a recent operation. The crowd gave Davis a hero’s welcome, his resolve to carry on in earnest representing the latest, and probably not the last, in a series of manifestations of what can only be called the Napoléonic spirit connected to the film since its conception in the 1920s by French director Abel Gance.

This restoration of Napoléon, on which filmmaker, enthusiast and conserver Kevin Brownlow had worked doggedly for the past few decades, boasts at being the most complete version of the film to date, running at about five-and-a-half hours, though still at least an hour short of the original version that premiered at the Opéra in Paris in 1927.

Gance’s Napoléon was a super-production if ever there was one; shot on location in France, Italy and Corsica, it cost millions of francs and starred at least forty principle characters, with some scenes employing the efforts of up to 6,000 extras. With its epic sweep of history and its audacious ‘poetry of action’, Gance claimed the film to be one of only two chansons de geste in the history of cinema, the other being The Birth of a Nation (1915) by D. W. Griffith, whose work Gance admired greatly. (2)

If Gance’s monumental production seems immediately comparable in scale to Napoléon’s own ambitions, then it does not take much of a stretch of the imagination to see this same indomitable spirit perfectly reflected in Brownlow’s efforts to get the film exhibited in its full glory. Indeed, Gance’s early attempts to get his vision financed, and the political and economic headaches it created, seem to be mirrored in the political intrigues that bubble beneath the surface of the new restoration. Such a comparison is invited in Brownlow’s accompanying book, Napoléon: Abel Gance’s Classic Film, a new edition of which is now available. The book is thus split into two parts, one focusing on Gance’s efforts to make the film and the second on Brownlow’s efforts to restore it, between which numerous parallels can be found.

Napoléon

The event in the Royal Festival Hall was breathtaking, but what many of the eager spectators did not expect was that it was also incredibly daring. Behind the scenes, like its historical subject, Napoléon’s legitimacy was contested by opposition from abroad, in the form of at least two alternative cuts of the film. One is American and has Francis Ford Coppola’s name to it, along with a soundtrack composed by his father, Carmine. The other is, appropriately enough, French, taking the form of Abel Gance’s own unsuccessful 1970 remake, Bonaparte et la Révolution, which was also produced by Claude Lelouch, to whom Gance surrendered his rights to the project. The issue of who owns the film(s) is, therefore, currently the subject of a protracted and sordid legal battle between the UK, America and France, with many of the companies, organizations and individuals involved in the film or its reconstruction lying claim to the fruits of the project (the sacrifices made by Thames television to commission the score is just one of many unpaid debts emphasised in Brownlow’s book).

The nature of this dispute is far too complicated to go into in detail here, and it seems pointless repeating what is already laid out in the accompanying book, but the result is that, after decades of painstaking work, the most complete version of the film is being held back due to a legal deadlock; at least this is Brownlow’s position, which is eloquently argued throughout the pages. Coppola, so it goes, is opposed to the Brownlow restoration being shown without his father’s score, and Lelouch has resisted screenings of it in France for fear that it would overshadow Bonaparte et la Révolution, which he has apparently been marketing as the definitive version.

It was in this atmosphere of legal intrigue that Brownlow dramatically labelled the screening at the Royal Festival Hall a “showdown”, thus infusing the event with almost as much excitement as the film itself. The audience were duly praised as daring cinéastes or as cultural dissenters, willing to see the ‘illegal’ film at all costs. Brownlow’s introduction thus succeeded in turning the Festival Hall into a simulacrum of the revolutionary convention, which is so dramatically presented in the film itself. This, of course, added to the experience, Brownlow and Gance being both agreed that film should be a spectacle.

The London screening was, fundamentally, an experiment designed to test the legal waters, which is why it had to be so high-key in its scale and venue. Indeed, Coppola responded to the screening by taking out an injunction against it, which was thankfully thrown out of court. With this victory under his belt, the next step for Brownlow is to release the film on DVD. However, the future of the film is uncertain and, when I asked Brownlow whether it will ever be released, he replied, “If you see the DVD it will be a miracle. But it will be the only way to break the American Embargo.” (3) The ball is in the British Film Institute’s hands and only it can bring the project to fruition.

click to buy "Napoleon: Abel Gance’s Classic Film" at Amazon.comIf Coppola is presented in his book as a threat to the cinematic empire, in much the same way as the English occasionally appear in the film doing all they can to frustrate the grandiose ambitions of Napoléon, then Brownlow should be excused this small piece of Napoléonic rhetoric. It was perhaps an inevitable extension of the Napoléonic mythology, which rests so heavily upon the project, that history, myth and cinema have perhaps become more confused here than in any other film.

Reading Brownlow’s account of the film and its restoration confuses these categories even more, by presenting Napoléon’s story as an allegory of the filmmaking process.

The dashing image of Albert Dieudonné as Napoléon on the front cover seems to evoke a series of doublings, most obviously between the historical figure and his cinematic and mythological representation, but also between Napoléon, Abel Gance as director and finally Kevin Brownlow himself. Given all of these doublings, it is no surprise that Gance should have decided to play the revolutionary leader Saint-Just himself, a clear indication of the kind of æsthetic revolution he was hoping to incite with the film.

Dieudonné, so the anecdote goes, won his part as the French hero, with whom he was obsessed, by dressing up as Napoléon and appearing at Fontainbleau palace, in which Gance was working on the script, proclaiming that Bonaparte had come to see the director regarding his part. However, it wasn’t only the lead actor who had Napoléonic pretensions, for the morale-building speeches that Gance regularly issued his troops of extras were deliberately designed, it seems, to emulate those of the emperor himself. For example, during the filming of the climactic march into Italy, Gance addressed his cast in the following manner:

You have not eaten for two days, but you are about to enter Italy. […] You are about to make this superhuman effort for the headstrong man leading you on. You will make him glorious throughout the world and he will lead you a long way forward! (4)

For a moment, you have to stop and consider whether “the headstrong man” is Gance or Napoléon, so similar are their roles. Indeed, Gance’s film seemed less concerned with recreating history than in reanimating it; for instance, during one scene, Gance’s extras were reportedly so enthusiastic that they cried “Vive Abel Gance!” instead of “Vive Napoléon”. Observing the spectacle, Émile Vuillermoz wrote:

If Abel Gance had 10000 extras under his command, drunk with history and a determination to obey that overcame all reason, he could have invaded the Palais-Bourbon or the Élysée and been proclaimed dictator. (5)

From the beginning, Gance’s engagement with history was far from innocent or objective; he viewed Napoléon as a “fervent republican” (6) and so presented him in the film as a tragically fated romantic hero, which explains the recurring imagery of the eagle that Napoléon owns as a boy and which reappears at pivotal moments in the narrative as a symbol of his unavoidable imperial destiny. Although Gance conceived of the project as a series of six films charting Napoléon’s life from his school days in Brienne to his defeat at Waterloo, the profits from each episode providing investment for the next, the full extent of the project remained unrealised and so the current version ends with Napoléon’s victorious march into Italy on a tone of patriotic excess. (7)

But if the film was politically problematic, then it was more revolutionary in æsthetic terms. Geoff Andrew is not alone in pointing out the film’s obvious failings as historical document, whilst still praising its visionary use of film language:

As hagiography, the film, for all its length and detail, is dramatically conventional, psychologically simplistic and politically suspect, celebrating Bonaparte’s relentless rise to imperial power. Cinematically, however, it remains a triumph of audacious technique. (8)

Indeed Gance, the silent era avant-gardist, was so adept at finding new techniques for manipulating images that he was often celebrated for elevating film into the plastic arts. There are some montages in Napoléon – for instance, the snowball fight at his childhood boarding school of Brienne with which the film opens – which are edited so quickly that the shots themselves are often indistinguishable. Napoléon’s victorious face is superimposed heroically upon images of snowballs flying through the air and the enemy snow fort being stormed by his children’s army, in dramatic anticipation of his later military prowess.

Effectively, what Gance had achieved was to reinvent the pictorial language of Impressionism for the cinema, just as Germans such as F. W. Murnau and Fritz Lang were experimenting with Expressionism. It is clear that Gance intended Napoléon to be a test of the art of cinema; Napoléon’s revolution was thus presented metaphorically as æsthetic as well as in historical and political terms. Frustrated at some critics’ reaction to the film’s abundance of technique, Gance wrote a letter addressed directly to his audience, which reveals his artistic vision in no uncertain terms:

In certain paroxystic sequences, I have created for the first time a new technique, based on the strength of rhythm, dominating the subject and violating our visual habits […] if you do not understand entirely do me the favour of believing that maybe your eyes do not yet have the visual education necessary for the reception of this first form of the music of light. It is the future of cinema that is at stake. If our language does not stretch its potential it will remain no more than a mere dialect among the arts. (9)

Despite these æsthetic aims, couched clearly in the language of a revolutionary discourse, the same avant-garde that had lauded him for his reinvention of film language in previous films, such as La Roué (1923) and J’Accuse (1919), which if anything Napoléon took further, now resented Gance for his seemingly nationalistic homage. Critics such as Léon Moussinac saw the film as an apologia of dictatorship and the presentation of Napoléon himself as “a Bonaparte for budding fascist” (10). It seems that Gance’s stylistic achievements, for some at least, constituted too small a fig leaf to cover the film’s simplistic political stance. (11)

Perhaps the key to understanding the film lies in one early scene in which Napoléon, at that point an impoverished soldier, watches the horrors of the revolution from his garret window. Outside mobs march through the street brandishing heads on sticks and one man climbs up onto the side of the building to toss a noose over an architectural feature for a makeshift hanging. Introducing this scene is an intertitle, not unusual in its poetic resonance, reading “fragments of a great event, viewed from a tiny room”. It is a beautiful metaphor for the cinema’s engagement with history and seems to acknowledge the kind of limitations King sees as inherent in the medium as a historical document. History is big and the screen is far too small a canvas to capture its scale and nuances; as a result, the camera offers a small and selective window onto events. For a moment, Gance jettisons the epic sweep of his story and uses the camera, not as a detached witness of great events, but as a modernist tool for exploring the dislocation of man in history. Through a sophisticated instance of double-framing, the audience is made to share Napoléon’s myopic perspective, with Napoléon viewing the revolution from his window as we view it from the tiny room of the auditorium.

The film need not be read so literally as a nationalistic statement, and it is important to note that Napoléon was perhaps one of the first big examples of an international co-production, with money coming from a variety of sources. Arguably, and this is the stance Brownlow takes, Gance viewed Napoléon as a pan-European project, designed to promote unity in the face of the growing strength of Hollywood. In a slightly arrogant, but justifiably angry, letter Gance sent a reluctant financier, he proclaimed that it was his intention to “put order into European cinema, for it is high time it was done” (12). Once more we can see how the mythology of Napoléon, specifically his attempt to unify Europe under one cinematic empire, infuses the film as an allegory of the filmmaking process.

However, such co-operative ideals were difficult to realise in a deeply divided post-war Europe, especially when Gance’s chief investor became the German-based consortium Westi, which was founded by the German industrialist Hugo Stinnes and the White Russian Vladimir Wengeroff. The hostile reaction of the French press to a German becoming involved in a film about a French hero reveals the extent of post-war French nationalism and almost destroyed the project, just as after World War II the brilliant director Henri-Georges Clouzot would be condemned in a similar wave of nationalism for his film, Le Corbeau (1943). But if the French were quick to react against German investment then, to Gance’s intense frustration, they were reluctant to put forth the money themselves, leading Gance to declare that “Napoléon frightens the French” (13).

Napoléon

The film’s problematic marriage of undisguised patriotism and progressive cinematic technique is fully apparent in the film’s final scenes, which are filmed in Gance’s pioneering technical innovation of Polyvision. (14) For Gance, Polyvision was not merely a way to extend the screen, but to push forward the boundaries of montage, such as Sergei Eisenstein was to later achieve with his rapid, intellectual juxtapositions. Indeed, Gance was aware of the influential nature of his work and once boasted that “it was mainly Eisenstein, [Akira] Kurosawa and Aleksandr Dovzhenko who really took aesthetic lessons from me” (15). Gance’s use of this technique, therefore, characteristically fluctuates between the epic (immense panoramas of Napoléon inspecting his troops before the invasion) and the symbolic (a triptych of images in which Napoléon gallops in the central screen flanked by separate images of an eagle in the outer screens). In the final sequence, Gance takes the technique’s potential for expression even further by tinting each screen so that the entire image takes on the appearance of the tricolour flag.

Having considered the problematic relation of history, politics and style in the film itself, it is time to widen the discussion to take in the film’s context. It is generally accepted that there are two dimensions of cinematic time: first, there is the time of the story, which is transformed into plot; and screen time, which constitutes the physical length of the film itself. (16) The film’s meaning is constructed from an overlapping of these two temporal elements, the story being inferred through its presentation in the form of plot. History becomes narrative, thus reality is transformed by cinema, becoming a mere referent; as the film historian Pierre Sorlin argues, “the past is narrated in the present tense […] it is rebuilt on contemporary references” (17).

In his article on Napoléon, film historian Norman King also emphasises the contemporary relevance of the film above and beyond an accurate portrayal of history. According to King, historical realism in film necessarily gives way to a predilection towards mythmaking, “given the immediacy of the image, popular mythology and iconography matter more than authenticity” (18). Ultimately, therefore, historical narratives reveal as much about their own time as the time they depict, and the film exists in a complex dialectic with history and reality.

I have already touched upon a reading of Napoléon as an allegory for pan-European solidarity, which serves to universalise and justify the film’s more nationalistic elements. An alternative way of reading the film, one favoured by Pierre Sorlin, is as a more nationally specific allegory of the victory of the popular front in French politics.

This reading can be carried over to the sound version of the film that Gance completed in 1935. The major changes Gance made to the narrative structure in this new version included a complicated framing device set in a Bonapartist club in Grenoble during Napoléon’s imprisonment on Elba, so that much of the original footage is now utilised in flashback rather than being presented as history unfurling in front of the spectator. King notes that this results in a prevalent mood of nostalgia, both for the Napoléonic and the silent periods (Gance is one of many directors whose masterpieces were made in the silent era and who failed to find their feet in the more studio oriented environment of the sound period). Like so many films in this period, for instance Quai des Brumes (1938) by Marcel Carne, this new revision of Napoléon seems to be about the failure of the popular front. King also notes how the final version of the film that Gance worked upon, Bonaparte et la Révolution, released in 1971, can be seen as a response to the political events of 1968.

With all of these revisions, each of which is anchored in its own time as much as the Napoléonic era, it is difficult to say for certain which is the definitive version of the film, but it seems that Brownlow’s restoration comes closest to the version screened at the Opéra (arguably the version most loyal to Gance’s original vision) in both length and shot order, which was reconstructed from Gance’s copious notes. What perhaps made this restoration more difficult than others was, ironically, the sheer amount of material that was discovered in archives around the world. Gance had shot a record amount of film for Napoléon, about 400,000 meters according to MGM’s figures, often using multiple camera positions for each scene. If this made the job of his editor, Marguerite Beaugé (who is celebrated in Brownlow’s book as one of the great editors of her age), next to impossible (she often slept in the editing suite with her young daughter and suffered from a mental breakdown), then it presented a logistical nightmare for any restoration process. Gance himself envisaged a different cut for each nation, emphasising the universal appeal of the material, although many of these versions were re-cut by Gaumont-Metro-Goldwyn without his consent. Some of these incomplete versions emerged in the 1960s, and were shown by the Institute Français and the NFT, which took them to be the definitive version. It is against these misleading and less powerful manifestations of the film that Brownlow was reacting with his own restoration.

Napoléon

Aside from the elements of plot and story, Napoléon therefore highlights a third dimension of time: the history of the film itself as an object in history, its meaning changing and even being physical transformed through reediting, with each new generation’s interpretations. And because Napoléon has existed in so many different versions, its mutations are all the more apparent. In each case, according to Sorlin’s analysis, it seems Gance was using the mythology of Napoléon to urge for an end to factionalism in politics, “it is indeed possible to read the film as an urgent appeal for strong leadership so that France will once again find a sense of direction.” (19) However, such political dimensions of the film, which were so important to audiences in the 1920s and ’30s, who were living in a period of political turmoil between the two world wars, resonate less in a modern audience, who arguably concentrate on the film’s æsthetic and formal elements over its political message.

This is perhaps most true of the critics of Cahiers du Cinéma, the French film journal that was to become the mouthpiece of the French New Wave, who renewed interest in Napoléon and Abel Gance for a whole new generation of cinéastes. For instance, after seeing a screening of the film at Studio 28 in 1955, François Truffaut wrote a piece celebrating Napoléon and proclaiming Gance a genius. At the end of this piece, which was later published in the important collection, The Films of my Life, Truffaut asserts that “despite his years, Abel Gance remains the youngest of our directors.” (20) Unlikely as it seems, Gance had been adopted by the Nouvelle Vague, the new generation of French filmmakers and critics who were to reinvent how cinema was perceived, and was now held up as a great auteur and precursor to their own movement. The critics of Cahiers du Cinéma, at this point at least, were notoriously apolitical and so any political dimension of the film was overlooked in this reappraisal in favour of its æsthetic achievements, which Truffaut listed at great length in the article.

Henri Langlois, head of the Cinématheque Français and the possessor of the most complete print of Napoléon, capitalised on this new popularity by sending the film out to various festivals. Brownlow, then making a documentary for the BBC about Napoléon for the Omnibus series, learned how paranoid and protective archivists such as Langlois could be with their collection. Langlois, who was briefly ousted from his post by Andre Malraux the French minister of culture in 1968 (another famous intersection between cinema and politics), had hidden Gance’s films in an obscure American freight company during the political chaos of that year. When the NFT finally received the print for a special screening, it was discovered to be in a terrible condition, leading Brownlow to name the ruined cuttings of the film “Langlois’ Confetti” (21). Perhaps Brownlow’s most daring and applaudable action in the whole affair was to make a secret and highly illegal copy of the complete negative, which was soon to disappear, “presumed to have been destroyed in the last big Cinémathèque fire” (22).

The treatment of the finished film by its distributor on its release in 1927 was just as deplorable. The film was held back for a long time in America to avoid competition for Ben-Hur: A Tale of the Christ (Fred Niblo, 1925), then the most expensive film ever made. When it was released by MGM, it appeared as a butchered version, courtesy of editor Harry Rapf, who was also responsible for the re-cutting of Erich Von Stroheim’s Greed (1924). Gance was to claim that the film had been suppressed for fear of the revolution that the technical innovations would cause (23), a conclusion that is echoed in Brownlow’s assertion that all scenes showing evidence of technical innovation (the virtuoso editing of the Brienne snowball fight and the final triptych of Napoléon’s invasion of Italy) were removed in order to “suppress foreign competition” (24). Indeed, if Jonathan Rosenbaum’s indictment of Miramax in his book, The Movie Wars, is anything to go by, this kind of suppression is still a strategy being practiced by Hollywood today.

Napoléon

But Napoléon’s restoration does more than present us with a great forgotten and abused masterpiece. The story of its difficult reconstruction reminds us of the urgency of film conservation. As Brownlow observes in an aside to his discourse on Napoléon, thousands of nitrate films, which are being held in archives or private collections, are being lost each year to decay, some of them as historically and æsthetically important as Napoléon but lacking the prestige that would warrant their costly restoration by an increasingly economically motivated industry. Brownlow is by no means alone in urging the need for an organised culture of conservation within the film industry. This is a message that has also recently been taken up by Bill Morrison in his poignant avant-garde documentary, Decasia: The State of Decay. Being entirely made from eroding nitrate film footage, the film powerfully expresses the urgency of the situation without a single word being spoken, the images are literally allowed to speak for themselves.

However, images cannot ‘speak’ to us if they are lying forgotten in some archive. The tendency in commercial film production is to see film as an ephemeral entertainment rather than as an art worthy of preserving, which is why it is vital that prominent figures in contemporary cinema speak out on the behalf of the images, which are often so callously treated after they stop turning a profit. One such attempt to give the doubly silent footage a voice is the Film Foundation, which Martin Scorsese formed in 1990 along with other concerned directors, including Stanley Kubrick, Steven Spielberg and, of course, Coppola. This high profile organization aims to “raise funds and awareness of the urgent need to preserve our motion picture history” (25). However, with so much at stake in film conservation, even the best of intentions can ultimately result in an unfortunate stalemate, as we have seen with the example of Coppola’s and Brownlow’s rival versions of Napoléon.

Paolo Cherchi Usai’s book, The Death of Cinema, epigrammatically lays out the paradoxes and ironies of film conservation, though its tone of pessimism may do more harm than good as it elicits the response, “Why bother?” It is to the book’s credit that the main text is followed and repudiated by an anonymous reader’s comments. Although this reader is well aware of the essentially problematic nature of film preservation – the ever-spiralling quantity of images being recorded in the world, the self-aggrandising stance of many conservers, the hostility of the industry and the indifference of the public – none the less argues for its necessity.

As a solution to the disorganised state of world archiving and restoration strategies, the ‘reader’ argues for an international consortium that would treat the issue of film conservation with the same rigour as it is treated in the fine arts. This consortium should be made up of experts who would preside over the various disparate organizations involved in conservation, thus refocusing and unifying efforts on a global level. In the meantime, the reader praises the efforts of a few obsessive individuals, such as Henri Langlois (and indeed Brownlow), who are willing to acquire films regardless of copyright or financial gain:

it was their choice to preserve films without asking permission. Nobody forced them, and there is some legitimacy in their right to go on doing it without being treated like burglars. (26)

Indeed, in an age in which copyright seems more of a violation than a defence of the film, placing the artist’s rights above those of the work itself, certain types of piracy are not only idealistically and morally justifiable but also absolutely necessary, such as Brownlow’s ‘copy’ of the original negative.

Ultimately, Usai’s ‘reader’ concludes that conservation “is meaningless if it does not preserve the thing that is no less precious than moving images themselves, the right to see them” (27). Brownlow’s efforts to restore Napoléon have been motivated throughout by cinephilia, ever since; as he recalls in his book, he discovered the first few reels of the film on 8mm and projected them to friends and family. He possesses a generosity that comes with a passion for cinema, a passion that is infectious. His goal was never to lock the film away in an archive for some abstract notion of posterity, but to attempt to show it to as many people as possible. In short, he was attempting to bring the film to life in the same way Abel Gance endeavoured to bring to life the figure of Napoléon in the film itself.

Brownlow’s first restoration of Napoléon, now much expanded upon by his latest version, though still forming the basis of the version held by Coppola, resulted in an audacious open air screening at the 1979 Telluride Film Festival, which was attended by Gance at the age of 89. Gance watched from his hotel window and acknowledged the shocked crowd “like the emperor” (28) himself. Brownlow says of the event that “the overriding feeling was of being a part of returning an astonishing work of art to the man who made it, in the midst of an extremely appreciative audience” (29).

It seems fitting to end the story with Gance watching the historical restoration of his film, and its long-awaited reunion with an admiring audience, from his hotel window, just as Napoléon witnesses the events of the French revolution from his garret room in the early stages of the film. That sequence plays with the notion that the young soldier is witnessing his own destiny and future glory, then unknown to him, and it is tempting to think that Abel Gance may at Telluride have likewise witnessed, through his window, the first stages of a rewriting of film history with himself at its centre. But that will only be the case providing the film is allowed the release it deserves; until then, it will remain, for a limited number of cinephiles, a “fragment of a great event viewed from a tiny room”.

Endnotes

  1. Also known as Napoléon vu par Abel Gance.
  2. Norman King, History and Actuality: Abel Gance’s Napoléon vu par Abel Gance, French Film: Texts and Contexts, Susan Hayward and Ginette Vincendeau (Eds) (London: Routledge, 1990), p. 25.
  3. Kevin Brownlow, during a talk given to the Film Archiving MA class at the University of East Anglia, 1 March 2005.
  4. Abel Gance, quoted in Kevin Brownlow, Napoleon: Abel Gance’s Classic Film (London: Photoplay Productions, new edition, 2004), p. 125.
  5. Émile Vuillermoz in Brownlow, p. 108.
  6. Gance in Brownlow, p. 149.
  7. Abel Gance made a brief and unsuccessful return to Napoléon with his 1960 film, Austerlitz.
  8. Geoff Andrew, The Director’s Vision: A Concise Guide to the Art of 250 Great Filmmakers (Chicago: A Cappella Books, 1999), p. 44.
  9. Gance, quoted in Brownlow, p. 149.
  10. Léon Moussinac, quoted in King, p. 30.
  11. Indeed, the same criticism is often levelled at Dziga Vertov, whose idealistic conception of Communism is none the less generally considered to be less important than his cinematic innovations. One might even include Leni Riefenstahl in this roster of directors whose problematic politics still divide critics over the issue of their importance in the history of cinema, which indicates that Gance’s exclusion from the canon of great directors is by no means an unusual case.
  12. Brownlow, p. 31.
  13. Ibid, p. 86.
  14. Polyvision was an early form of Cinerama, a short-lived early widescreen process made famous by How the West Was Won (John Ford, Henry Hathaway, George Marshall) almost four decades later in 1962, in which a panorama is created by running three cameras simultaneously side by side and projecting the image on three screens using three projectors. Polyvision was such a costly system, requiring significant expenditure on equipment by the theatres themselves, that it was perhaps doomed to failure, given that it came about so close to the development of sound.
  15. Gance, quoted in Brownlow, p. 185.
  16. These two categories, which roughly coincide with the Russian Formalist notions of Fabula and Suzjet in the literary text, are laid out in David Bordwell and Kristin Thompson (Eds), Film Art: an Introduction (New York: McGraw Hill, 2004).
  17. Pierre Sorlin, The Film in History (Oxford: Basil Blackwell, 1980), p. 71.
  18. King, p. 25.
  19. King, p. 31.
  20. Truffaut, The Films of my Life (London: Allen Lane, 1980), p. 32.
  21. Brownlow, p. 187.
  22. Ibid, p. 188.
  23. Ibid, p. 158.
  24. Ibid, p. 154.
  25. Scorsese, foreword to Paolo Cherchi Usai, The Death of Cinema: History, Cultural Memory and the Digital Dark Age (London: BFI, 2001).
  26. Ibid, p. 126.
  27. Ibid, p. 127.
  28. Brownlow, p. 216.
  29. Ibid, p. 216.