Two films we will not be showing this year:
The “Fantomas” series by Louis Feuillade, featuring the original masked super-hero. We would so love to show these in 16mm in their original cliff-hanger series format but the screening rights are currently owned by Gaumont, not available in this country and at a cool 800 euros a pop, it’s probably not going to happen on our screens anytime soon…give a Gallic shrug, feast your eyes on the poster instead and dream on…..
“Napoleon“, director Abel Gance’s extraordinary silent epic of 1927, was designed to be shown on three screens, tinted red white and blue for the Tricoleur. After much of the original footage was lost it was painstakingly reconstructed by film historian Kevin Brownlow in the late 1970s. I saw one of the first, four and a half hour versions of the restoration in the early 80s with a live orchestra playing Carl Davis’ score and it truly added new breadth and dimension to the word “Epic”. I’ve been wanting to see it again ever since,but its triptych format and grand scale make it so logistically problematic and costly to screen that it is almost impossible to show, and has therefore become legend. Not only that, but the rights to the film are one of the most contested in the history of cinema and would probably make an epic movie in itself if anybody dared…now owned by Zoetrope, who released a condensed (and some purists say, unrecognisable) version on DVD, the complex restrictions on which version is shown, how, and when, have taken the film way out of the public realm. It is going to be shown in San Francisco this spring, but only after lengthy negotiations with the Coppola family and goodness knows what cost. There is much more to say about it all but I don’t want to start wearing cement overshoes or wake up next to a disembodied horse’s head – suffice it to say that our hopes of somehow screening a kind of punk version on three screens with whatever projection we can muster – 16mm, DVD, 35mm, with a live soundtrack by some of our best local musicians – have been well and truly dashed. Pity, because it really is a magnificent film with imagery that will stay with you forever.