My heart dropped when in the opening sequence of Napoleon Joaquin Phoenix opened his mouth and a broad Brooklyn accent emerged.
In films like Spartacus Kirk Douglas and Tony Curtis had thick American accents, but you might have thought that a voice coach assisting Phoenix – or a French film star – could have interpreted the rôle better.
This said, it’s a reasonable biopic of Napoleon – without really getting beneath his skin – and the battle scenes (in wrap-around 3 screens) are very good indeed.
Much of the film is occupied by his passionate and complex relationship with Josephine (Vanessa Kirby).
Facially, she reminded me of Dorothy Tutin but, having earned her stripes as Princess Margaret in The Crown, Vanessa Kirby is elevated to star billing.
I am no expert on Napoleon so I asked around the Rust contributors.
The Marlon Brando version is highly rated.
Henry Elkins informed me that there was much more to Napoleon than the depiction of a brilliant military commander brooding under his cloche hat.
The young Napoleon, who had conquered Italy before he reached 30, was a Corsican who could scarcely speak French.
He was responsible for the Napoleon Code and was a serial plunderer of art but, like Hitler, over-extended himself in invading Russia.
At two and a half hours, it’s a long film and I wonder whatever happened to Alfred Hitchcock’s view that a film should be no longer than the strength of a bladder – in my case 2 hours.