Monday, March 26, 2012


Napoleon at the Oakland Paramount, 03.25.2012 Orchestra pit for screening of Napoleon at the Oakland Paramount.This weekend I had the grand experience of seeing Abel Gance's Napoleon at the Oakland Paramount, accompanied by a live orchestra. I saw the 1st of 4 shows, which are touted as the only American screenings of Kevin Brownlow's 5 1/2 hour restoration. I sat next to a man who traveled from Chicago just for this event. Carl Davis composed the score & conducted the Oakland East Bay Symphony, lightly miked from the pit. I really enjoyed Mr. Davis's symphonic score, drawn boldly from Beethoven, Mozart & Bach & matching the film's heroic rhetoric. It truly enhanced the film & was especially effective during the battle scenes. Mr. Davis was careful enough to include the hurdy gurdy, which appears briefly on-screen. I loved the light cymbal crash that accompanies the return of the boy Napoleon's pet eagle. The orchestra was phenomenal, playing for longer than a Wagner opera with untiring strength & consistency. The musicians received their 1st standing ovation right before the dinner break, & at the end of the performance the pit elevator brought them up into view, where they received another huge ovation.

The screening is humanely provided with 3 intermissions, including an hour & forty-five minute dinner break, which allowed my movie companion & I to walk 4 blocks to our dinner reservation & back in plenty of time. The house was packed, & the lines for the restrooms & concessions required a hopeful frame of mind. I did not spot any costumes, but my movie companion saw someone in a Napoleon hat. I was impressed that the program adhered almost exactly to the advertised schedule, beginning a bit past 1:30p & getting out by 9:45p.

The audience applauded when the curtains were drawn back for the famous triptych finale & broke into applause several times more during the sequence. I'd say this is a once in a lifetime experience, but I believe that Patrick proved this untrue by attending both weekend performances. I waved to him at his seat up front, where he must have been practically inside the triptych. I somehow escaped the notice of SFMike, who has provided more background for the event here.

§ Abel Gance's Napoleon
Restoration by Kevin Brownlow
Score created & conducted by Carl Davis
Performed live by Oakland East Bay Symphony
March 24, 25, 31, April 1
Paramount Theatre, Oakland


sfmike said...

You seemed worried about the expense of the tickets when I talked to you about these showings a couple of weeks ago, so I am enormously happy that you decided to go anyway. It really was a remarkable experience in just about every way.

Axel Feldheim said...

The performing arts gods did not want me to miss this. A friend ended up with an extra ticket, which he offered to me in exchange for being taken out to dinner that night. I went home that night filled with gratitude for my friends as well as for the experience of the event. & now having done it, I agree with you that it is worth the ticket prices.

Robert said...

I saw it on the 24th. If it had been a disappointment it would have been easy to explain for there are so many conventional factors working against it, but none of that mattered... the result was sensational. All movies will be trifles after "Napoleon."

The only other similarly-stunning movie-going experience I can compare it to was seeing "2001: A Space Odyssey" in its original run when I was 8 years old.

Axel Feldheim said...

Robert: Napoleon is much more than a movie experience, & this presentation is really well executed. This weekend's shows better be packed! Glad you were not disappointed! Were you one of those who traveled just to attend?

You were clearly one precocious 8-year-old to get so much out of seeing "2001" for the 1st time!