A Fascinating Story, Sifting through Legend and Fact about N
Grady Harp | Los Angeles, CA United States | 07/09/2006
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Director Antoine de Caunes has adapted Rene Mansor's fine screenplay concerning the enigma that still exists as to the final resting place of Napoleon Bonaparte into a film that relates the period of history from 1816 to 1840 during which time the bifurcated responses of the British and French to the legend of Napoleon initiated the scandal that still piques our interest.
Opening in 1816 Napoleon (the brilliant Philippe Torreton) is imprisoned on the island of St. Helena along with his most trusted supporters and various citizens who elected to follow him into exile - with an eye on Napoleon's fortune when he dies. There is a new British Governor appointed, Hudson Lowe (Richard E. Grant), who is steely and determined to prevent Napoleon's escape and yes, even protect the British government from the costly extended prison expenditures a prolonged exile will produce. Lowe appoints Basil Heathcote (Jay Rodan) to sit in watch of the Emperor/General only to come under the spell of the mysterious Napoleon and the spell of a young girl Betsy Balcombe (Siobhan Hewlett) who is in love with Napoleon. Others among Napoleon's party include the Montholons (Stephane Freiss and Elsa Zylberstein) the latter of whom Napoleon keeps as his mistress and impregnates, Cipriani (Bruno Putzulu) his butler and half brother, Ali (Igor Skreblin) his bodyguard, Marshal Bertand (Roschdy Zem) his aide de camp, among others. Napoleon's self perception as the Emperor makes him unavailable to close scrutiny and rumors fly about his proposed escapes and about the British idea of poisoning him. There is great mystery surrounding Napoleon's ultimate death and burial and this mystery is what drives the story in flash forward sequences to the investigation of Napoleon's ultimate exhumation to see if the man buried in Les Invalides in Paris is actually Napoleon Bonaparte - and if not, where is the true Napoleon buried?
The period atmosphere on St. Helena is scrupulously recreated, allowing a superb playing ground for the many fine performances by an excellent cast. We see Napoleon as we've never seen him, a multi-dimensional character with whom we, as viewers, tend to sympathize. This is not only due to the fine script but also to the unique portrayal by Philippe Torreton. The film is in both French and English, with English subtitles for the French only. And therein lies the fault of this otherwise superb film. The ambient sounds of the crashing sea and the annoyingly loud musical score by Stephan Eicher cover the English dialogue to such an extent that it cannot be heard most of the time. This is a film that would greatly benefit from re-mastering to add English subtitles for the entire film AND by making it available in full screen instead of the widescreen that reduces much of the action to miniaturization! Otherwise, this is a superb period piece that opens questions about historical accuracy that invite investigation. Grady Harp, July 06
Very good movie which raises a number of intersting question
Kenneth D. Gartrell | Boston, MA USA | 08/05/2008
(5 out of 5 stars)
"This is a great movie for anyone who is deeply interested in the Age of Napoleon.
This is a mystery which raises anew the question of who is buried in Napoleon's Tomb. The idea behind the movie is that Cipriani, Bonaparte's valet and half brother, died himself of a hereditary stomach cancer, only to ultimately end up in the Emperor's tomb.
This all happens by sleight of hand and a little bribe to Hudson Lowe. Once the deception is complete, the perfectly healthy Napoleon escapes to Louisiana and lives till his final day with Betsy Balcombe, the real life niece of Hudson Lowe.
To the point, true or false, the story is a very interesting mystery movie worthy of watching. It is excellent cinema. It has good acting and excellent dialog. True, false or indifferent - the movie is worth the money and the time to watch it. I recommend it strongly to the thinking movie fan who wants an interesting topic to discuss over cocktails or wine and cheese.
Today, the real life mystery can be addressed very easily by forensic gene testing. The emperor's clothes and other personal items are plentiful and the body is conveniently located in the center of Les Invalides. They can be easily matched or distinguished.
I do not know what the French are willing to consider concerning this prospect. I prefer myself to keep the prospect alive that Napoleon did win his last great battle. It makes the reading of the story of the Age after Waterloo all the more exciting because it ends in a story of final victory -- not only of the British and the Age, but of the spirit of man."
Napoleon's last battle
Trevor Willsmer | London, England | 12/16/2007
(4 out of 5 stars)
"At any given time there are always two films in pre-production about Napoleon's time in exile that never actually get made (last year it was an Al Pacino-Scarlett Johannson opus). Surprisingly a few years ago two got made at the same time - Alan Taylor's whimsical The Emperor's New Clothes and Antoine de Caunes' (yes, the Rapido guy) darker Monsieur N., a rather good but sometimes uncertain, albeit very handsomely shot, conspiracy drama about Napoleon's last days on St Helena and the mystery surrounding his death. At times it feels like two different movies as it moves between his parasitic court in exile and his eventual reburial in Paris decades later, but at least they're two different fairly interesting movies, and Philippe Torreton makes a convincingly bitter Napoleon. Richard E. Grant, a last minute replacement for Stephen Fry, is less successful as his jailor, particularly in his scenes as an older, broken man, and Jay Rodan's British accent leaves something to be desired, but they're minor problems in an interesting if not entirely successful take on an old story.
A lush, theatrical work of movie majesty,
Midwest Book Review | Oregon, WI USA | 06/09/2007
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Presented in its original French with English subtitles, Monsieur N. is the DVD movie equivalent of a fascinating historical novel. Portraying the legendary conqueror Napoleon Bonaparte during his years of exile after his defeat at Waterloo, Monsieur N. not only bring to life an eye-opening portrait of the former Emperor's exile, but also presents a daring "what-if" story - what if Napoleon escaped St. Helena in such a crafty manner that his disappearance remained undiscovered to this day? A lush, theatrical work of movie majesty, highly recommended. 127 minutes, color."