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... Precipitations fall thickly and heavily in Abel Gance’s Napoleon: snow in the courtyard of the college in Brienne, feathers from savaged pillows, rain and hail on the drums at the siege of Toulon, song-sheets fluttering down at the National Convention, confetti at the extraordinary Bal des Victimes, at which everyone present had to have lost a relative on the scaffold or to have been reprieved himself ...

At the Movies

Michael Wood: ‘Napoléon’, 15 December 2016

Napoléon 
directed by Abel Gance.
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... One​ of the lasting impressions left by Abel Gance’s film Napoléon (1927), now showing in a new, digitally remastered print at the BFI and the Lumière, is that it consists solely of close-ups and crowd scenes. This impression is too simple, but it doesn’t go away when you correct it with the modest, more diffuse truth ...

Diary

A.J.P. Taylor: Books are getting too long, 1 December 1983

... declare it all the same. I spent most of last Sunday watching the silent movie Napoleon, made by Abel Gance some fifty years ago. The scenes of the French Revolution seem to me very unlikely: the principal characters make very strange faces and wear very rough clothing. Napoleon specialises, in rushing from the left-hand side of the screen to the right ...

Best Beloved

Kevin Brownlow, 18 April 1985

Chaplin: His Life and Art 
by David Robinson.
Collins, 792 pp., £15, March 1985, 9780002163873
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... and trivia by four new biographies: Richard Koszarski’s Erich von Stroheim, Roger Icart’s Abel Gance (in French – still searching for an English publisher), Richard Schickel’s D. W. Griffith and now David Robinson’s Chaplin. All have one vital quality in common, and are preceded in this respect by Alexander Walker’s book on Garbo: they ...

Encyclopedias

Theodore Zeldin, 26 October 1989

Pan Encyclopedia 
edited by Judith Hannam.
Pan, 608 pp., £8.99, August 1989, 9780330309202
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Longman Encyclopedia 
edited by Asa Briggs.
Longman, 1179 pp., £24.95, September 1989, 0 582 91620 8
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International Encyclopedia of Communications: Vols I-IV 
edited by Erik Barnouw.
Oxford, 1913 pp., £250, April 1989, 0 19 504994 2
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The Cambridge Encyclopedia of India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Nepal, Bhutan and the Maldives 
edited by Francis Robinson.
Cambridge, 520 pp., £30, September 1989, 0 521 33451 9
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Concise Encyclopedia of Islam 
by Cyril Glass.
Stacey International, 472 pp., £35, February 1989, 0 905743 52 0
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The World’s Religions 
by Ninian Smart.
Cambridge, 576 pp., £25, March 1989, 0 521 34005 5
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The New Physics 
edited by Paul Davies.
Cambridge, 516 pp., £30, March 1989, 0 521 30420 2
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The Middle Ages: A Concise Encyclopedia 
by H.R. Loyn.
Thames and Hudson, 352 pp., £24, May 1989, 0 500 25103 7
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China in World History 
by S.A.M. Adshead.
Macmillan, 432 pp., £35, June 1988, 0 333 43405 6
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... but Macmillan is certain that the British do not care who he is. Macmillan has not discoverd Abel Gance; Longman tells you he made the film Napoleon, but you already knew that, you looked him up because you had seen the film; you will have to go to the Grand Larousse to discover what a curious person ...

The Past’s Past

Thomas Laqueur, 19 September 1996

Sites of Memory, Sites of Mourning: The Great War in European Cultural History 
by Jay Winter.
Cambridge, 310 pp., £12.95, September 1996, 0 521 49682 9
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... commemorative practices where others have seen cultural rupture, innovation, irony. Consider Abel Gance’s film J’Accuse. It is about an increasingly insane wounded soldier who escapes from hospital and returns to tell his village about a dream in which the dead of battle rise from their makeshift graves in a great black cloud and walk the roads ...

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