Halfway through, Gélin as the young Napoleon sits down for a haircut. Snip, snip, et voilà, 'he felt like a different man' - and the older Pellegrin now occupies the chair and the role. This easy way with a long, bumpy narrative is the best of Guitry. In the person of Talleyrand, he recounts admiringly, but with many a wry aside, Bonaparte's life and times. The interest level fluctuates, the staging is sedentary (Guitry delegated the battles to Eugène Lourié), the perspective is that of a French patriot. Still, the treats keep coming: Stroheim as Beethoven, Welles as the brutish Brit of St Helena, and Gabin as the mortally wounded Maréchal Lannes, gesturing feebly towards the heaps of corpses, then roaring into the Emperor's ear, 'Assez!'
Cast and crew
Erich von Stroheim