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The Emperor's New Clothes

4.4 out of 5 stars 31 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Product Description

Alternative history and whimsical imagination make comfortable bedfellows in The Emperor's New Clothes. As happens in Simon Leys's novel The Death of Napoleon, the French emperor's demise is faked as part of a political comeback scheme, a

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Alternative history and whimsical imagination make comfortable bedfellows in The Emperor's New Clothes. As happens in Simon Leys's novel The Death of Napoleon, the French emperor's demise is faked as part of a political comeback scheme, and Ian Holm--who had previously played Bonaparte in Time Bandits and a 1974 British miniseries--plays both Napoleon and the look-alike who "dies" on the island of St. Helena. En route to Paris to stage his miraculous "resurrection," Napoleon inadvertently finds happiness in Antwerp with an incredulous widow (High Fidelity's Iben Hjejle) while the look-alike--now comfortable with his pampered captivity--refuses to reveal his true identity! As directed by Alan Taylor, this delightful comedy is played at a perfect low-key pitch, favoring the subtleties of Holm's performance, which is every bit as clever as his Bilbo Baggins in The Lord of the Rings. Little-seen in theatrical release, this acclaimed gem deserves a long life on DVD. --Jeff Shannon

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Product Details

  • Actors: Ian Holm, Iben Hjejle, Tim McInnerny, Tom Watson, Nigel Terry
  • Directors: Alan Taylor
  • Writers: Alan Taylor, Kevin Molony, Herbie Wave, Simon Leys
  • Producers: Hanno Huth, James Wilson, Kevin Molony
  • Format: Anamorphic, Closed-captioned, Color, Widescreen, NTSC
  • Language: English (Dolby Digital 2.0 Surround), English (Dolby Digital 5.1)
  • Subtitles: English
  • Dubbed: English
  • Region: Region 1 (U.S. and Canada only. Read more about DVD formats.)
  • Number of discs: 1
  • Rated:
    PG
    Parental Guidance Suggested
  • Studio: Paramount
  • DVD Release Date: December 10, 2002
  • Run Time: 107 minutes
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (31 customer reviews)
  • ASIN: B00006RCN9
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #111,843 in Movies & TV (See Top 100 in Movies & TV)
  • Learn more about "The Emperor's New Clothes" on IMDb

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: DVD Verified Purchase
I found this a delightful movie and am sorry it had such a limited theatrical release (it only played one week in Austin and I was not able to see it at that time). Thanks be for the DVD, which is crystal clear and in widescreen, although there are no extras. I think your reaction to it might depend on your familiarity with (or sympathy to) Napoleon Bonaparte, Emperor of the French. Those more knowledgeable about his life and career will find more nuances to Ian Holm's characterization and more depth in the story. Others may find this film too slow or mystifying. For my part, and as an admitted sympathetic Bonapartist -- Napoleon was a great man in every sense of the word, with great failings as well as great skills and sometimes even virtues -- this film grows on me with every viewing and I keep finding more little gems of detail to treasure.

It's not the ha-ha comedy I initially expected, and perhaps the script could have used a few more humorous scenes, given the potential in the subject matter, but it would not be fair to criticize the movie for not being something it did not set out to be. Napoleon's chance visit to the battlefield of Waterloo, now catering to tourists, is comical in a typically low-key way. The pacing may be too leisurely to some, but this says more about our Hollywood-shaped sensibilities than what director Alan Taylor had in mind. This is not a cookie-cutter, by-the-numbers movie. It's a gentle slice of whimsy and romance made for an audience that can appreciate a movie with no car crashes, machine guns, or bimbos.

The central theme is transformation: can a man remake himself utterly, and in so doing, gain a second chance at happiness?
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Napoleon died in 1821 in comfortable exile on the island of St. Helena, right? Nope. That's the alternative history premise in the lighthearted THE EMPEROR'S NEW CLOTHES.
Ian Holm, recently seen on the big screen as Bilbo Baggins in LORD OF THE RINGS, does double duty as Bonaparte and his look-alike, Eugene Lenormand. The latter is a swab jockey pulled off a passing merchant ship and secretly substituted for Bonaparte on St. Helena while the Emperor sets sail on the same vessel for France in the guise of the common sailor (with all his attendant duties). The plan is that, after enough time is allowed Napoleon to reach Paris, Lenormand will announce himself as a fraud to his British jailers, a revelation sure to make all the supermarket tabloids. Reading of this in Paris, the Emperor will emerge from the closet, so to speak, and retake his throne with the help of widespread popular support. The plan doesn't take into account that Eugene might enjoy his new existence in captivity. As he remarks to the French conspirators, he's been scrubbing ships' decks for all the years that Napoleon was Emperor, and now it's his turn to be pampered. So, in the meantime, the real Napoleon must cool his heels in Paris while staying in the home of the widow Truchaut (Iben Hjejle), alias "Pumpkin", who manages a cadre of street-roaming melon sellers. As luck would have it, Pumpkin's husband, who was one of the very few plotters privy to Napoleon's escape plan, died shortly before the Emperor's arrival. Oh, well.
Holm is splendid in his dual role, and Hjejle is engaging as Pumpkin. However, the two together, especially Holm's Napoleon persona, never quite made this viewer believe that the pair had a future together no matter how much Pumpkin wanted it.
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Format: DVD
I put off watching "The Emperor's New Clothes" for a while because the cover art for the DVD made me think that this was going to be something of a silly comedy. We see Ian Holm as Napoleon Bonaparte, decked out in his standard military outfit, with the lipstick imprint of a kiss on his cheek. Consequently I was expecting something a bit zany, with Holm mugging for the camera and the usual sort of hilarity that goes on when people trade identities in movies. Boy, was I wrong.

The screenplay by director Alan Taylor (who directs a lot of series on HBO) and his co-writers Kevin Molony ("Sylvester") and Herbie Wave ("The Closer You Get") is based on the novel "The Death of Napoleon" by Simon Leys. The premise is deceptively simple: while exiled on the island of St. Helena, Napoleon switched places with Eugene Lenormand, a simple sailor who looked like the deposed Emperor of France. While Lenormand pretended to be Napoleon, the man himself would sail in Lenormand's place on the ship, return to France, contact loyal men who would get him to Paris, and take control of the nation once again from the Borbons. However, a couple of problems develop. The first is that Napoleon is deposited not in France, but Belgium, while the other is that Lenormand likes being Napoleon in exile and refuses to admit he is an imposter.

Napoleon makes his way by coach to Paris, and because he starts in Brussels he ends up at a stop in Waterloo, where the curious come to see the famous battlefield and buy mementoes of the Emperor's defeat. "They've changed my battlefield," Napoleon says, but that is not all that has changed since then.
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