27.March.2012: The Bay Area is still buzzing after the first two screenings of Kevin Brownlow’s 5 ½ hour restoration of Abel Gance’s Napoleon at Oakland’s Paramount Theatre. “It’s hard to know where to begin when talking about this movie, but let’s begin at the end,” writes Mick LaSalle in his rave for The San Francisco Chronicle. “The film, which tells the story of Napoleon’s early career, climaxes with Napoleon’s Italian campaign in 1796. The curtains sweep open, the big screen triples in size, and three different images—complementary, interactive, intuitively connected—are projected simultaneously from three different projectors…It’s an overwhelming and surprisingly emotional experience. And the accompaniment by Carl Davis, conducting the Oakland East Bay Symphony in his own score, is so brilliant that it seems to account for all three screens…You walk out exhilarated and beaten up, the cinematic equivalent of getting up from a banquet, stuffed, or staggering out of an orgy.” We’ll stagger on from there to Kenneth Turan’s equally wowed dispatch for The Los Angeles Times. He tips his cap to attendees both notable (Alexander Payne) and far from home before diving into the particulars of what made this production, with its $720,000 price tag for four screenings, so risky for the San Francisco Silent Film Festival.“Though it was not publicized at the time,” he writes, “severe measures were employed to hold the  Radio City event to four hours out of fear of expensive overtime: A touching subplot about a young woman who worshiped Napoleon was eliminated and the print was shown at a faster 24 frames per second rather than the correct 20 frames. The Oakland version played at the right speed, restored that subplot and added new footage the ever-vigilant Brownlow unearthed in the years since.” The final two shows of this Napoleon are set for this coming Saturday and Sunday, and it’s quite possible the last time it will be show on film.
Indiewire’s Dana Harris reports that the Weinstein Company is rejecting the MPAA’s R rating for their new social problem doc, Bully. The Weinstein press release waxes high-handed: “Furthering proof that the R rating for some language is inappropriate for a film that’s meant to educate and help parents, teachers, school officials and children with what’s become an epidemic in schools around the country, the fight against the rating continues on. The outpour of support by politicians, schools, parents, celebrities and activists for the film’s mission to be seen by those it was made for – children – has been overwhelming. Nearly half a million people have signed Michigan high school student and former bullying victim Katy Butler’s petition on Change.org to urge the MPAA to lower the rating.”
Los Angeles-based Outfest announced yesterday that it will absorb programming duties of this July’s NewFest in New York as part of a “strategic partnership” between the two LBGT-oriented film organizations.
Good news for lovers of long-form film criticism: The Chicago Reader announced yesterday that they’re developing an alphabetical index of all long reviews published over the last 40 years, which means plenty of writing from erstwhile regulars like Jonathan Rosenbaum, Dave Kehr, and Fred Camper.