SCREENnFacing GrandeurnNapoleon; Written and directed bynAbel Gance; A Robert A. Harris/ ImagesnFilm Archive Release fromnZoetrope Studios.nby Stephen MacaulaynThe reputation of Napoleon, circan1981, came to Detroit with a fervor surpassednonly by that of the Rolling Stones’nconcerts which followed the film presentationsnby a few weeks. Perhaps it is indelicatento yoke Abel Gance’s reconstructedn1927 film (commonly referrednto as a “masterpiece”) with Messrs. Jagger,nRichard, et al., but the presentationnoi Napoleon reminded me of a rock concertnmore than anything else. (Beforencontinuing, I should point out my perspective;nwhen I viewed Napoleon lastnNovember, 1 was 27, the veteran of severalnrock performances, though the observernof recent ones from without, asntime has taken its toll.)nTo wit: the film was presented in annauditorium where such concerts havenbeen held (though today football stadiumsnare de rigueur: damn the acoustics,nthe gross is the thing!). Upon enteringnthe lobby, I was confronted by a tablencovered with Napoleon memorabilia:nbuttons showing the star’s visage (whichnhas an eerie similarity to rock’s RodnStewart, eerie considering the possibilitynof a remake), posters, the score for CarminenCoppola’s Napoleon theme song,netc. Then there was the film itself.nI can vividly recall seeing Frankenheimer’snGrand Prix in 1967 at the nowndefunct Cinerama Theater. Not only is itna film for the extraordinarily large screen,nbut Frankenheimer employs the splitscreenneffect that is a hallmark of Gance’snfilm. I recently saw Grand Prix on television.nThough the impact of the MontenCarlo race wasn’t quite there—I didn’tnlean into the curves while sitting on mynMr. Macaulay visits Detroit-area movientheaters.ncouch—the film worked in the reducednformat. There is no way that Napoleonncould ever work on television: it is a spectaclenand, as such, it requires tremendousnphysical space. To continue with thencomparison with rock music: I imaginenthat if the Rolling Stones were to performnin a suburban basement or back yardnrather than on an elaborately engineerednstage, they would be no better than thencombo that plays at the neighborhoodnbar. They require the setting of the extravaganza.n(Note: I’m sure that somenare thinking that under any circumstancesnmost any musical group would benbetter than the Stones but, regardless ofnindividual tastes, it is necessary to recognizenthat they are certainly one of thenmost commercially significant recordingngroups and that, like other social diseases.nThe Stones won’t go away by beingnignored.)nSo what can one say about Napoleon?nA number of adjectives leap tonmind, ready-set in the boldface typenused in newspaper ads. The camera workn(Gance was a pioneer in using the cameranas a portable eye rather than as an obelisk)nand editing (he was also a master atnquick cutting, which is a necessity fornThe Poignanqr of CheapnessnPennies from Heaven; Written bynDennis Potter; Directed by HerbertnRoss; MGM/United Artists.nby Eric ShapearonA perspicacious European writer remarkednin one of his novels that the contemporarynperson’s sufferings are bestnexpressed by pop songs’ vocabulary. Henpointed out that, in our time, someonenwho is afflicted with an unrequited andninjurious love notices that his grief andndespondency are best articulatednnnsilent films, since otherwise the viewerntends to nod off, especially when the filmnruns for approximately four hours) certainlyndeserve acclaim. The mere logisticsnof the movie (not only the cast of thousandsnand the props, but simply thenamount of film exposed) make Gancenqualified for some sort of honorific.nBut what I think is most impressivenabout Napoleon is that although thenfilm, when reduced to essentials, isncorny, it is captivating. In other words, itnis more like a novel by Dickens than, say.nApocalypse Now, which was also shot onnthe Grand Scale. Characters are stylized,noften to the point of being caricatures,nsituations are contrived (e.g. Napoleonnhas a Tricolor handy to use as a sail on anbroken-down boat) and so on; still, Infound myself completely charmed. I hadnintimations of being something of a vonnBlucher to Gance’s Napoleon when Inentered Ford Auditorium, yet I closelynguarded my program as I exited.nFrancis Ford Coppola deserves praisenand pity. The praise is for his role in makingnNapoleon available. The pity is fornhis foolishness for having done so: AbelnGance was far better in 1927 than mostnfllnunakersareintheSO’s. Dnthrough chintzy lyrics. The more trivialnthe cliche one finds in those words, thenkeener is one’s understanding of what isnhappening to him.nThe people who conceived and producednPennies from Heaven must havendiscovered a similar truth. They seem tonsay that the routine “dream factory”nHollywood output during the Depression-drearyn30’s had a much more delicatenand complex interrelationship withnthe American sensibilities of that eranthan we suspected. They seem to be suggestingnthat the inane MGM musicalsnMay/June 198Sn