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Abel Gance’s fabled “Napoleon” has arrived”—artist Paul Davis signs his “Napoleon” posters Sunday morning, March 25, 2012, at Oakland’s Paramount Theatre

New York artist and illustrator, Paul Davis, who designed the poster for the San Francisco Silent Film Festival's exclusive screenings of Abel Gance’s “Napoleon” will sign posters at Oakland’s Paramount Theatre on Sunday, March 25, 2012. Photo: courtesy Paul Davis

Yesterday’s press screening and final orchestra rehearsal of Abel Gance’s legendary silent film “Napoleon,” was an exhilarating all day affair at Oakland’s magnificent historical Paramount Theatre.  I hadn’t seen “Napoleon” before and was blown away by silent film historian Kevin Brownlow’s restoration of the 1927 silent film classic—which added an additional 30 minutes of found footage and upgraded the film’s image quality substantially (particularly in tinting and toning) since its previous restoration, some 30 years ago.  British composer Carl Davis’  new 5 ½ hour orchestral score,  a pastiche of dramatic and inspirational music from the period and some new material,  was played valiantly and with great emotion by the Oakland East Bay Symphony.   It was also my first opportunity to meet acclaimed New York artist and illustrator, Paul Davis, who designed the limited edition poster for the San Francisco Silent Film Festival’s four exclusive screenings of this masterpiece, unseen in the U.S. for nearly 30 years.  Davis’ compelling poster, which uses the colors of the French flag, is based on an actual film frame of Albert Dieudonné, the intriguing French actor who brilliantly brought the adult Napoleon to life on screen.  Dieudonné plays Napoleon through age 26, when the film ends, just as the legendary young general is about to lead the French Army into Italy, marking the close of the 18th century.  Napoleon became emperor in 1804 and died in 1821, having undone many of the principles he so ardently fought for as he rallied the people and brought France to glory.   The poster’s lower section, in red, features Davis’ conception of the film’s final battle, which will be shown in its intended and unforgettable Polyvision panoramic version at the Paramount Theatre.

The festival is selling Davis’ iconic poster in two sizes–27” x 40” and 11” x 17’–and Davis will be signing posters on Sunday, March 25, 2012, at the Paramount Theatre from 11:15 a.m. to 12:15 p.m., just before the film’s second screening at 1:30 p.m.  Admission to the signing is free.

Artist Paul Davis with his Napoleon poster at Oakland’s Paramount Theatre. Davis will be signing his posters, designed especially for the San Francisco Silent Film Society, on Sunday, March 25, 2012. Image: Myrna Davis

Stay tuned to ARThound for an interview with Paul Davis about his conception for the poster.  Davis is perhaps best know for his iconic theater posters (including Three Penny Opera and For Colored Girls Who Have Considered Suicide…) for producer Joseph Papp.  He also designed the poster for Film Forum’s 1999 screening of the rerelease of Jean Renoir’s Grand Illusion, hailed as one of the greatest movies ever made.   

Click here to purchase a limited edition Napoleon poster by Paul Davis.  (27” x 40” ($30) and 11” x 17’ ($15)  Posters will also be available at all four screenings.

Davis’ poster can be seen in Petaluma at the Petaluma Arts Center, the Central Market restaurant, Petaluma Pie Company, and Santa Rosa Junior College’s Petaluma campus in the Mahoney library and Ellis Auditorium.

Napoleon Event Details: 

What: Kevin Brownlow’s 2000 reconstruction, the most complete possible restoration of 1927   5 ½ hour film in the original 20 frames per second, with the final polyvision, requiring 3 screens. The Oakland East Bay Symphony will be conducted by Carl Davis, whose score will be the live accompaniment to the film. This is the U.S. premiere for both the reconstruction and the music.

When: March 24, 25, 31, April 1, 2012

Where: Paramount Theatre, Oakland

Time: All four performances begin at 1:30pm. There will be three intermissions: two 20-minute intermissions and a 1 hour, 45 minute dinner break starting at 5:00pm. View Places to Eat for nearby restaurant recommendations and make reservations in advance.

The film itself is 5½ hours long; with intermissions included, the show will let out at approximately 9:45pm.

Tickets: Buy tickets for all Napoleon performances here.

More Information: San Francisco Silent Film Festival

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March 24, 2012 Posted by | Film | , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

The Magnificent March of “Napoleon”—Abel Gance’s fabled silent film masterpiece has been restored and is screening at Oakland’s Paramount Theatre to live music, starting this weekend, March 24, 2012

The San Francisco Silent Film Festival is presenting Abel Gance’s legendary masterpiece, Napoleon,  unseen in the U.S. for nearly 30 years—for four performances only—March 24, 25, 31, April 1, 2012—at Oakland’s historic Paramount Theatre.  This marks the exclusive U.S. premiere of silent film historian Kevin Brownlow’s complete restoration of the film and the U.S. premiere of a 5 ½ hour orchestral score by the eminent British composer Carl Davis,  who will conduct the Oakland East Bay Symphony at all four screenings.  The Brownlow restoration, produced with his partner Patrick Stanbury at Photoplay Productions in association with the BFI (The British Film Institute), is the most complete version of Gance’s masterpiece since its 1927 premiere at the Paris Opéra.  The film will screen in the original 20 frames per second, with the finale in polyvision, requiring 3 screens.  The gorgeous Art Deco Paramount Theatre in Oakland is one of the few theatres in the country that could meet the technical, staging and spatial requirements of this enormous undertaking— a proscenium large enough for the Polyvision finale, an orchestra pit, floor space to accommodate a 48 member orchestra, and a seating capacity of 3,000.  And because Carl Davis would have had to work with a different symphony orchestra in every city to deliver the monumental 5 ½ hour score  — that’s at least four solid days of rehearsal—expensive!—there are NO plans for this restored version to travel to any other U.S. venue.  And because the cost of recording the 5 1.2 hour score is prohibitively expensive for the DVD/BluRay market, and the dramatic Polyvision finale in the theatre could not be duplicated— It would be letterboxed onto the television, no matter how large your viewing screen is.—there will be no DVD/BlueRay recording made.  This is it!

What exactly is Polyvision? And what are the technical requirements?  Polyvision was one of Abel Gance’s greatest innovations: for Naploeon’s finale, the screen dramatically expands to three times its normal width, for both panoramic views and montages of images. There has not been anything like it since: even the similar American process Cinerama, first presented 25 years later, never made such virtuosic use of its three screens.

To present Polyvision at the Oakland Paramount, three projection booths equipped with three perfectly-synchronized projectors must be specially installed, along with a purpose-built three-panel screen, which will fill the width of the auditorium.  These technical requirements can only be handled by top technicians and a 3-person team from Boston Light & Sound is being specially brought in for the Paramount’s installation.

In the captivating clip below, Brownlow is captured in an interview discussing Napoleon some 30 years ago.  Brownlow became fascinated with Gance’s film when, as a schoolboy in the 1950s, he ran two 9.5mm reels he had stumbled upon at a street market.  That chance encounter turned into a lifelong fascination with Gance and a quest to restore the film.   Last year, Brownlow became the first film historian ever honored with a special Academy Award and he will feature promnently in the events at the Paramount Theatre, including a special Gala dinner and reception on Friday, March 23, 2012 in Okaland and a talk at Pacific Film Archive in Berkeley on March 30, 2012.

The first major Brownlow/BFI restoration culminated in a screening at the Telluride Film Festival in 1979, with 89-year-old Gance watching from a nearby hotel window.  Under the auspices of Francis Ford Coppola and Robert A. Harris, a version of this restoration, accompanied by a 4 hour score composed by Carmine Coppola, was presented at Radio City Music Hall and other venues in the U.S. and around the world in the early 1980s. This version, with the 4-hour version with the Coppola score, has been shown on television in the U.S. and was released on VHS and laserdisc, but never on DVD in the U.S.   Brownlow and the BFI did additional restoration work to Napoleon in 1983.

The current restoration, completed in 2000 but not previously seen outside Europe, reclaims more than 30 minutes of additional footage discovered since the 1979 screening and visually upgrades much of the film. This unique 35mm print, made at the laboratory of the BFI’s National Archive, uses traditional dye-bath techniques to recreate the color tints and tones that enhanced the film on its original release, giving the images a vividness never before experienced in this country.

Stay tuned to ARThound for an interview with artist Paul Davis who created the spectacular poster for this special event.

Napoleon Event Details: 

What: Kevin Brownlow’s 2000 reconstruction, the most complete possible restoration of 1927   5 ½ hour film in the original 20 frames per second, with the final polyvision.  The Oakland East Bay Symphony will be conducted by Carl Davis, whose score will be the live accompaniment to the film.  This is the U.S. premiere for both the reconstruction and the music.

When: March 24, 25, 31, April 1, 2012

Where: Paramount Theatre, Oakland

Time: All four performances begin at 1:30pm. There will be three intermissions: two 20-minute intermissions and a 1 hour, 45 minute dinner break starting at 5:00pm. View Places to Eat for nearby restaurant recommendations and make reservations in advance.

The film itself is 5½ hours long; with intermissions included, the show will let out at approximately 9:45pm.

Tickets: Buy tickets for all Napoleon performances here.

More Information: San Francisco Silent Film Festival

March 19, 2012 Posted by | Film | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment