Under siege by prospective homebuyers, we escaped once again to the movies. The 1927 silent film Napoleon was being staged in downtown Oakland at the glorious Paramount Theater. The East Bay Symphony would play the never-before-heard-in-America score by British composer Carl Davis and Davis himself would be conducting. The entire production would take 8.5 hours starting at 1:30 p.m. and ending just before 10:00 p.m.
“I barely made it through The Artist,” my husband said when I proposed this open house diversion to him.
“It’s a once in a lifetime event,” I countered. “And there will be a BIG dinner break.”
So we went. And we loved it. I’m sorry that it isn’t playing another weekend so I could tell you all that it really was worth the time and the money and the nap beforehand so you could go. But it was a pretty much sold-out smash hit so maybe it will come again. Or it will play somewhere else and you should see it. Really. Now that he’s seen it, my husband would tell you to go as well.
Why all the raves?
Well, the imagery was terrific. I especially loved the early scenes of young Napoleon at the boarding school in the snow. Our film professor friend Mark Sandburg happened to be at the same showing we were. He told us that Kevin Brownlow, the British film editor responsible for reconstructing the film from scattered bits, had spoken to his class at U.C. Berkeley in the past week and said the greatest day of his life was when he found the extra snowball fight footage.
I was intrigued at how contemporary the men looked. Robespierre sported hip, round sunglasses and Marat wore a headband and leopard lapelled coat that could have come straight out of Keith Richard’s wardrobe. And Napoleon, well, he could have used a better haircut, but he was actually quite dashing.
The women, however, did not evoke a contemporary ideal of beauty. Josephine was pudgy with a prominent chin and an overbite full of small teeth that flashed in a gummy smile. But she was memorable, which is more than I can say for many of the look-a-like femme fatales of today.
The score was fabulous. The audience raucous. And the big triptych finale with three enormous screens displaying separate images in shades of red, white and blue to evoke the French flag was spectacular.
For a quick peek at some highlights, watch this .
Oh, and we came home to an offer on the house. A challenging offer— sacre bleu! Would selling our house be our Waterloo? The next morning we received a better offer. With any luck, this would prove to be our Toulon.