The Emperor's New Clothes

Film, Action and adventure

Time Out says

In the beginning... A father uses a Kinetoscope to tell his son a fabulous story about the fate of Napoleon. Flashback to St Helena, 1821, as a strutting Bonaparte (Holm) hatches an ingenious plot to escape from British-imposed exile by means of a double, and reclaim France. A hazardous sea crossing later, he announces his return only to be scorned as a madman. Thus the bones of director Taylor's adaptation of Simon Leys' novel, The Death of Napoleon, a clever if hardly plausible historical fantasy. Those expecting a rousing costumer should look elsewhere. Taylor aims for the same gentle dramatic irony applied more successfully in his American film Palookaville. Holm actor has a lot of fun with Boney's impish double, who screws the plan by first refusing to give up his adopted airs and graces and then dropping dead. But his Bonaparte is a bridge too far: after the escape, the story requires him slowly to discard his tricorn-crowned sense of destiny and clothe himself in lowly merchant's garb as he falls for melon-selling single parent Pumpkin (Hjejle). One minute he's organising her workmates like the cavalry at Austerlitz, the next he's pressing his claim at a back window of the Palais de Justice like a helpless member of the unemployed. A scene in an asylum filled with declaiming Napoleons epitomises the film's strained pathos.

By: WH


Release details

107 mins

Cast and crew

Alan Taylor
Kevin Molony, Alan Taylor, Herbie Wave
Ian Holm
Iben Hjejle
Tim McInnerny
Nigel Terry
Hugh Bonneville
Murray Melvin
Eddie Marsan
Clive Russell
George Harris
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