31 of 33 people found the following review helpful
on December 9, 2009
Ten books inside this massive green behemoth tell and illustrate the story of how Kubrick attempted to make this period epic for MGM right after 2001: A Space Odyssey. But a cash crunch in Hollywood at the end of the 60's, 2001's not-blockbuster numbers, and a flop from DiLaurentis called Waterlloo convinced MGM to pull out. The production was shelved, stored by Kubrick on his farm, where it sat until recently. Finally his estate has decided to revive this treasure trove of research, scriptwriting, costume planning and location scouting to a small monument of books filled with terrific historical text, photos of archived notes and correspondence, photographs, production details and techniques, and the final script. It's a movie in a box, waiting to be made. Serious, scholarly discussion of the subjects complement an embarrassment of photographic riches to fill up this beautiful, one of a kind volume for serious study of the process of independent film production. The product design of this monster is one-of-a-kind. It's worth every penny.
23 of 27 people found the following review helpful
on April 10, 2010
I'm a Kubrick nut. If you're also a Kubrick nut, you will find NAPOLEON endlessly fascinating -- the literary equivalent of an ten-course meal at a five-star restaurant at the best restaurant you could ever possibly formulate in your imagination. Despite its cost, this publication does not disappoint. And what's fascinating to me is that -- despite NAPOLEON's comprehensiveness, from a "macro" standpoint -- a studious reader garners true, unbridled insight into the quotidian methodology of Kubrick's wholly astringent sensibility. This is thanks to the exhaustively collected (and beautifully reproduced) letters and memos (both from and to Stanley) and -- even more significantly -- the "hand-written annotations" that appear, throughout the material, in Kubrick's own hand. Particularly given the time-frame during which the bulk of this material was created -- in the immediate aftermath, for the most part, of 2001 -- it's fascinating to witness the means by which Stanley was leveraging his success (to ostensibly actuate his dream project), and the extent to which his reach occasionally (and ultimately) exceeded his grasp. Kubrick's insight into the workings of the Hollywood studio system is also on evidence; viz., there's a full draft of the NAPOLEON screenplay included, but the script's (somewhat schematic) side-stepping of the contemplated scope of the more ambitiously contemplated battlefield-centric production sequences (for example : Wellington appears, in the climactic clash, but has nary a line of dialogue) subtly suggests Kubrick's savvy insofar as making the project as financially palatable as possible to Hollywood's powers-that-be. As mentioned by other reviewers, the ancillary "costuming," "production design," and other magnificently-reproduced photographic volumes add immesurably to the experience. I spent a full weekend plumbing this thing, and it was a weekend well spent (and one I look forward to undertaking again, at some point in the future) (as with future viewings of Kubrick's masterpieces).
11 of 13 people found the following review helpful
on March 28, 2011
Yes, the new single-volume edition is rife with design compromises: unwieldy size, awkward layout, tiny pictures. But it sells for an attractive price. Whereas the original 10-volume edition is a five-star thing of beauty and wonder ... but you probably can't find it for any price, as Taschen manufactured only 1000 copies (alas).
16 of 21 people found the following review helpful
on April 1, 2011
In this book one can pore over Stanley Kubrick's personal correspondences as well as the screenplay, saying nothing of the 100's of photos. The content is incredible.
Stanley Kubrick's passion for research, beauty, and functional organization is no secret. It is ironic and unfortunate, that this book was incredibly well researched, meticulous in what was put in (and left out), well organized, but was printed in an odd format, in a way that stifles clear communication of the book's own content. It was not formatted for function, but for concept.
The volume is over 1000 pages yet uses a distinctly vertical format to feel like a book from the Napoleon era. The pages curl tremendously towards the center, and the text documents within the book fan out from the binding of the book, for that feel of actually looking through originals. Unfortunately, the information close to the center of the book becomes so curved due to the book's size that the reader has to angle their head or move the book to read (particularly around page 500). The hundreds of sequential photos do not read well across a vertical format; they are just over an inch wide and unclear. Often these images are of etchings from napoleons era, an art form whose beauty resides in the details.
I get the conceptual appeal of the book format. It looks nice on my coffee table. It just needed to be a much bigger book to feel clear, or in another format to properly use.
Instead of focusing on the type of BOOK that was produced in the napoleonic era, it would have been much more pleasurable for the reader, to design the format of the book around the FILM Stanley Kubrick designed. Stanley wasn't going to film Napoleon in the common aspect-ratio of prints and paintings from the Napoleonic era. He was going to film it in the clearest way possible to show us the Napoleonic era itself. Sweeping vistas of armies, their patterns of war, and the european countryside might have been just as central a tenet to this film as Napoleon himself. Despite having excellent content, Castle's take on Napoleon doesn't give us enough room to properly enjoy it.
6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
on March 25, 2011
I agree with the last reviewer in that, design wise, they could've made some improvements. Blank back pages of binders, tiny pictures, etc. Either make it less pages or make the pictures larger! I haven't yet logged into the database with 150000 or so images. This is probably cool, though.
Bottom line is this...for 50 bucks (including shipping) you can spend hours pouring through all the research stuff in here. It's awesome, and being a Kubrick fan I am overwhelmed with the information here.
This movie should've been made sometime in his life. We see that after 2001 it was postponed, but why not made after A Clockwork Orange, instead of Barry Lyndon (which I love)? I'm still trying to find the answer, but it comes down to that it would cost too much. Too bad. Buy the book if you have room for it!
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
If ever proof were needed that it was a myth that Stanley Kubrick was in a position to make any film he wanted, his oft-thwarted attempts to bring his dream project Napoleon to the screen provide it in ample quantities. It was originally going to go ahead in 1971, but a combination of MGM's operating losses, a huge downturn in moviegoing and the massive box-office failure of Waterloo all killed it off. In later years, even though no Kubrick film ever lost money from Lolita onwards and most made huge profits, the industry wasn't interested in epics though Kubrick tried to prove he could pull it off by making Barry Lyndon - which caused another wave of problems. Although that turned a profit, it also went overbudget (largely because of having to relocate from Ireland after the IRA threatened to bomb the set and/or kill Kubrick and Ryan O'Neal and their families for 'supporting' the status quo by shooting scenes with extras playing the 18th Century British army on Irish soil) and it was around then that the legend that Kubrick's films were endless shoots began, which only deterred studios even more.
Even though he delivered three profitable films in a row after that, he could never really shake studios concerns that a Kubrick-length shoot on an epic wasn't a good bet even though his films were never particularly expensive. It didn't help that he was tied to Warner Bros., who have never been into big period epics in the way other studios have. Yet that didn't stop him working and obsessing over the project, developing it for years and amassing a huge amount of research in the process. After his death, that research was finally published in an the absurdly expensive limited edition ten-book set, but this considerably less expensive one volume set now offers all the contents in a single bound volume that you need to go into weightlifting training to pick up. It's a rather splendid affair - not just Kubrick's screenplay (surprisingly heavy on narration) but as much of the contents of his infamous boxes as they could photograph and transcribe. It's not one for casual readers, but for film buffs there's a wealth of material that it usually takes months to go through in an archive. It's quite an eye-opener to see just how much work had been done on its various incarnations. It may not be the greatest film never made, but it's great to have all the pre-production material put together to give some idea of what could and should have been. And you can bet that the next few Napoleon films and TV shows will all avail themselves of the collected resources.
12 of 17 people found the following review helpful
on November 23, 2009
Taschen, the Kubrick Estate and Alison Castle combine to produce this amazing set of 10 books-in-a-book covering the background material for the movie Kubrick never made.
The sub-volumes are all contained within a reproduction Napoleon book from the 1920s. Inside the shell are comprehensive volumes containing location photos, costume designs, draft shooting script, date files, plans and much more.
Expensive yes, but priceless. The content will last a lifetime.
on February 8, 2013
This book was purchased in December 2011 (meant as a gift for my friend). Unfortunately I didn't get the chance to make the gesture but I couldn't bring myself to give it away either.
I still haven't had the time to start reading the text sections, but visually this is indeed a sensational piece of work. One can see that the author treated it as a labour of love and with heartfelt respect towards the life and work of Stanley Kubrick.
There's Kubrick pretending to be tossing a rubgy ball on the set of 'Lolita', throwing a custard pie onto a technician's face with amusement on 'Dr. Strangelove' - Christiane, his wife, can also be seen throwing another one on another part of the War Room set, or self portrait photographs taken by Kubrick himself staring at his own stills camera in the midst of filming, and even a full page photo of him up close showing a big and bright smile on the set of 'A Clockwork Orange'.
As a whole, this is a lavish, gorgeous and extremely well designed and researched book, with everyone involved deserving kudos for putting it together, including the Kubrick Estate for allowing the late director's archives to be disclosed and shown.
It is a brave 70$ purchase, yet it's really worth every cent spent on it, and of course an essential buy for the Kubrick aficionados like myself and for every serious film buff.
on January 18, 2015
I have to say I have never sat down and read this book in the normal way. Instead I tend to read it by browsing through and choosing a particular section and then just enjoying that section. The way it is set up, this kind of periodic enjoyment is perfect, as there are many different sections and each has a distinct topic. In particular I enjoyed the archived correspondence and the technical details of the film planning -- budgets, camera plans, cast logistics. There are relatively few studies of large film productions from this era, so even though this film was never made, the details are fascinating to read.
Be warned, this is a huge and heavy book. It is hard to hold on your lap and really needs a horizontal place of honor for storage. I hate to suggest a coffee table but maybe a Napoleonic cabinet would work.
on January 28, 2014
If you like Kubrick's work - then this is a book to read - I read the script once and was astounded- this gives all the details and background. A lot of what went into Barry Lyndon would have been used for Napoleon.This was a work in progress and obviously would have changed as it was filmed- but it would have been exceptional.