What is Napoleon, Ridley Scott's latest cinema challenge, worth?

Ridley Scott's new challenge is not the least ambitious of his career since it involves dealing with a highly controversial historical figure: Napoleon Bonaparte. From Abel Gance to King Vidor via Sacha Guitry or Antoine de Caunes, many have tried it with more or less success, not to mention Stanley Kubrick himself, who ended up stopping everything because of a withdrawal last minute financial.

At 85 years old, with his experience, Ridley Scott did not allow himself to be impressed by the Emperor and his legend by deciding to offer an approach as singular as it was original to the character. If he strives to depict his relentless conquest of power, his rise to his fall, he does so only through the prism of the passionate and tormented relationship that Napoleon maintains with Joséphine, the great love of his life. The problem - and it is a big one - is that David Scarpa's screenplay gets bogged down in a mixture of genres in which neither the Josephine-Napoleon relationship, nor the conquest of power, is fully successful.

It must be said that Scott is not helped by a neurasthenic Joaquin Phoenix and pompous dialogues declaimed in rather ugly settings in their digital version, which sometimes remind us of a bad rehash of a Mylène Farmer clip, where everything would be dull and without warmth.

In the image as in the script, it's Waterloo

The confusion of genres continues during three battle scenes which may well be filmed with dizzying mastery with the help of horses, extras and digital effects, but which are the reflection of a joyous mess where we don't no longer knows who is doing what, before ending up losing interest altogether. Historically, it is Waterloo in every sense of the word. Scott more or less doesn't care about the veracity of the facts (he has said it and repeated it on numerous occasions, including action). But by not wanting to glorify the military record or present Napoleon as a brilliant and intelligent strategist, he stuffs him into a suit that is too tight from which only his ruffian, vulgar side with his oversized ego emerges. The character is so emptied of his substance that we end up wondering what Joséphine could have found in him, and us with it.

Some will retort that the film in its 2h39 version, which is released today, November 22 in cinemas, suffers from cuts and temporal ellipses and that the announced 4-hour version will make everyone agree . But agree on what? With this future Director's Cut, will the film become a great epic and personal fresco, or will it prolong the polite boredom already felt when viewing this truncated version? The second option seems the most likely to us.

Like Stanley Kubrick, Ridley Scott perhaps shouldn't have made his Napoleon and continued to make other great films (The Last Duel, Prometheus). Clearly, the great directors have no luck with Napoleon. We are feverishly awaiting the Napoleon series developed by Steven Spielberg…