44 years ago I attended a glorious Radio City Music Hall presentation of Kevin Brownlow‘s restoration of Abel Gance‘s Napoleon (’27) — a Francis Coppola-sponsored, once-in-a-lifetime cinematic happening that knocked everyone’s socks off…three 35mm projectors and a super-wide screen (those triptych sequences!), a live symphony orchestra conducted by Carmine Coppola…a magnificent trigger switch…genuinely exciting blood-pump cinema.

Many different versions of Gance’s masterpiece have been screened over the last century, and all were quite lengthy.

The world premiere version happened at the Paris Opera in April 1927, and it ran 4 hours and 10 minutes. A nine-hour version played the following month at Paris’s Apollo theatre. A six-hour, 43-minute version was sent to the U.S. in 1928. Many different cuts shown at varying film speeds were exhibited worldwide over decades. The Coppola-Brownlow version shown at RCMH in 1980 ran four hours with a longish intermission. It’s also viewable on Bluray, of course, with a running time of 333 minutes.

All to say that a brand-new Cinematheque Francaise version is premiering at next month’s Cannes Film Festival — seven hours total but shown in two parts. The first half (which will run three hours and 40 minutes) will screen on Tuesday, 5.14. HE will attend, of course.

Gance’s Napoleon is a much more vital and essential film than Ridley Scott and Joaquin Phoenix‘s Napoleon — I can tell you this without qualification. What ever happened to the idea of streaming a much longer version on Apple?