An overpowering story, with choppy editing, of the life of Bonaparte, which perhaps lacks an angle but certainly not cinema.
Napoleon opens with the decapitation of a woman: Marie-Antoinette at the guillotine. This intro, somewhat disconnected from the rest, tells us that we have before our eyes a truncated version of the film: only 2h40, while Ridley Scott promised for months a version of more than four hours, but for streaming. Its “Josephine’s Cut”, a title which could, in fact, apply perfectly to this theatrical version where women are cut up, literally and figuratively. Indeed, the Empress Joséphine only occupies a peripheral position in a film bizarrely constructed from a series of pieces of bravery cut with an ax and assembled in order, a bit like a mind map, intended to give a broad idea of the life of Bonaparte. Any idea, and that’s it? Let’s say several ideas, but which really lack a real assembly that makes sense. We feel that things are missing, and the performance is a bit mechanical Joaquin Phoenix (who pulls out all his gaming tricks, a bit as if he were playing a best of without enthusiasm) don’t make up for it too much.
Napoleon: Ridley Scott intends to release his 4-hour version in streaming
We inevitably think of the frustrating theatrical version of Kingdom of Heaven : the film about Scott’s Crusades only gave its full measure in the long version, focused on Eva Green. And in 2023, do it again. Napoleon gives the sensation of being only the tip of the iceberg, and that we will have to wait to get the true measure of the film – especially since Vanessa Kirby is actually brilliant as Joséphine. The fact remains that Scott is, and always will be, one hell of a filmer: this heterogeneous assemblage is made up of often colossal moments, playing on contrasts, between shadow and light, between individual and mass, between anecdote and big story. An eternal kid, politically brilliant but dominated by women, it is less Napoleon that fascinates the director than the idea of including him in vast cinema movements, whether they involve fights, negotiations or even sexual relations. . Seeing the Emperor take Joséphine doggy style between two pitched battles indeed allows the film to be placed in the lineage of radical seventies biopics (like the Cromwell of Ken Hughes released in 1970 with Richard Harris, absolutely to be rediscovered) who did more than unbolt the statues: they dynamited them. Without a doubt, Napoleon is one of those.