Netflix and “Napoleon”, the fiancés of the Empire

This post comes from the daily newsletter of the Culture department of Release, sent free of charge every evening.

Breaking news : “Paris, January 14, 2021 – Netflix confirms its commitment in France by becoming a patron of the Cinémathèque française.” While cinemas are not about to reopen and we are starting to lose even the memory of the physical sensation of theatrical projection, the American platform continues to extend its cultural base, after having trumpeted the success from the Serie Lupin internationally with Omar Sy in the lead role of an updated version of Maurice Leblanc’s famous “gentleman burglar”, announced in particular number 1 in the United States without being able to really accredit his figures. Today, a new twist, this partnership with the venerable institution to financially support a project to restore the Napoleon by Abel Gance, with Albert Dieudonné and Antonin Artaud, screened for the first time in 1927. Subsequently reassembled many times, sea serpent and / or heritage white whale whose revelation is regularly announced in the eyes of the astonished public, project n ‘did not arrive safely since in 2014, Francis Ford Coppola, holder of world rights (excluding France) assured that in two years, the fresco of nearly seven hours retracing the imperial turpitudes of Bonaparte, from Brienne to the countryside of Italy, could emerge from a rejuvenation.

Coppola had organized a screening in the United States on music by his father, Carmine Coppola, in 1981, of a “short” version of four hours: “It was delirious, during the applause we called Abel Gance and held up the phone so he could hear what was going on. ” The filmmaker was to die soon after, at the age of 92. Two million euros were still missing to complete the work, supervised since 2008 by director and researcher Georges Mourier, and if Netflix does not communicate the extent of its contribution, it is substantial enough to deserve this temporary wedding invitation. (a two-year partnership).

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Napoleon is now announced for the end of 2021. To date, there is no deal on the film’s broadcast on the platform. This is obviously one of the new paradoxes (or cynicism?) Of the American giant – whose thunderous line-up for the new year consists of no less than 70 original feature films not at all promised to the smallest theater, if at all. ‘they open in vaccinodrome and popcorn mode – only to promote the resurrection of this historic blockbuster thought by Gance as a total spectacle on three giant screens! It should also be noted that Netflix, which opened its Paris offices in January 2020 in the IXe district, is developing a low noise policy of partnerships, in the form of a study grant, educational interventions, purchase of equipment or exchanges of various expertise with, in particular, Femis, Kourtrajmé, the school of image of the Gobelins or the Sorbonne. The platform thus intends gradually but very clearly to become a major private player in the global ecosystem of French cinema. An ideal of conquest by trying to avoid the Sainte-Hélène hut.

Didier Peron


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