Thursday 29 January 2015

An update on Napoleon and the Australian DVD

Belated apologies for the silence but a computer keyboard glitch prevented any activity. Following the earlier post on the DVD release in Australia, the only official DVD ever  issued anywhere in the world, cinephile and collector Neil McGlone writes:

  • Yes, the only legitimate home format release of the film is the Australian DVD featuring the much shorter version of the film with Coppola's father's score. There have been numerous Asian bootleg DVDs posing as official releases, butthey are of poor quality.
  • Coppola's company Zoetrope owned the rights to the 144min version of Napoleon that featured his father's score. The score issue was one of the main reasons in the litigation between Coppola and Brownlow. Carmine Coppola's score was synched to the movie running at 24 fps. When Brownlow did some additional restoration, found some additional footage and fought for the movie to run at his original frame rate, it was clear they couldn't use the Carmine Coppola score anymore and he asked Carl Davis to come up with something new. To honour the memory of his father, Coppola tried to block any showing of the improved Brownlow version, which is why there's no home video release of NapolĂ©on: either the publisher has to use a very dated copy, or they get a cease and desist mail by Zoetrope. 
  • The fact that in 2012 two screenings of Brownlow's version took place in Oakland (Coppola lives in San Francisco, just down the road) indicates that there has been a mellowing on Coppola's part. The film was then screened in various parts of Europe in 2014 using Brownlow's longer version with Davis' accompanying score.
  • Kevin mentioned to me last year on two occasions that Coppola's claim on the rights of the film was just that, a claim, with little foundation, when it came to Brownlow's restoration and new score intact. I suspect, and this is only my personal opinion, that if it did ever reach court that Coppola may have difficulty proving his right to a film that has since changed considerably from the version he originally owned the rights to. On this basis the film was being looked at by the BFI to release a DVD/Blu Ray of the film and work is believed to be in progress on this, but it will take a long time before we see the end results. The film is such a spectacle that trying to replicate the experience of seeing such an epic on the small screen is nigh on impossible, especially when you take into account the triptych sequence in the final act that takes up three large cinema screens alone! It will appear at some point, but who knows when. Criterion, I also believe, have first dibs on a US release!
Hope that gives a little more "meat on the bones" !

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