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NAPOLEON & LOVE
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As seen on PBS
The many amours of the French emperor
We know about Napoleon and Josephine. But what about Napoleon and Desirée? Napoleon and Pauline? Napoleon and Georgina, Eléonore, Marie Walewska, and Marie-Louise?
This British costume drama skips the battlefields and heads straight for the sumptuously appointed ballrooms and bedrooms where Napoleon woos, and sometimes weds, the women in his life. We meet him at 25, already a general in the French army but not yet worthy to wed a wealthy merchant’s daughter. We follow him through campaigns, affairs, and marriages as he conquers most of Europe and achieves absolute power. But will he ever have what he desires most: an heir?
Oscar® nominee Ian Holm (The Lord of the Rings) leads an illustrious cast in this classic British series seen on PBS and A&E. Also starring Peter Bowles (The Irish R.M., To the Manor Born) as Captain Murat and Billie Whitelaw (Hot Fuzz, Quills) as Josephine, with Ronald Hines (Van der Valk), Sorcha Cusack (Jane Eyre), Susan Wooldridge (The Jewel in the Crown), and Tim Curry (The Rocky Horror Picture Show).
Due to the age of these programs and the improved resolution that DVD provides, you may notice occasional flaws in the image and audio on this DVD presentation that were beyond our ability to correct from the original materials.
Each episode bears the title of one of Napoleon's many mistresses, whether they figured into his life as genuine objects of love or as steppingstones to political power. Josephine gets an episode to herself, but as she was a constant in his life (whether constant thorn or constant obsession) she is omnipresent throughout the series. As played by Billie Whitelaw, she is a delightful foil to the outsize, tiny fellow. Ian Holm takes great relish in playing the little big man under an assortment of wigs that capture him at key moments in his military and political life. Holm was 43 when he played the role of a man who ages from 25 to about 50, and he takes us through the phases of Napoleon's life with believable zeal. He seizes Napoleon's mercurial personality with gusto, whether in anger, passion, jealousy, graciousness, or gripped by the boundless ego that colored everything he did and touched everyone around him. Though this is clearly not meant to be a historical portrait, those who know the story of Napoleon and Josephine only as a fairy tale will find the nuance of that relationship fascinating. Because the series takes its time and moves with deliberate pacing through Napoleon's campaigns and travels through places like Italy, Egypt, Poland, and Austria, there is an excellent context that makes sense of the extraordinary career led by this complicated, brilliant, fanatical narcissist.
An array of midlevel British actors including Peter Bowles, Peter Jeffrey, Edward de Souza, and Tim Curry populate the bedrooms, war rooms, parlors, and drawing rooms of the sometimes cheap-looking sets. As was the BBC house style for decades, the interiors were shot on video, relying on blocking that is often clunky and awkward. The few exterior scenes bang against each other in grainy 16mm film, all of it edited together in rather harsh fashion. But the technical specifications are pretty meaningless when pressed against Napoleonic obsessions over power and love. Napoleon & Love may be a relic, but it should bring new pleasures to aficionados of classic British historical drama. --Ted Fry
Top Customer Reviews
Anyone looking for spectacle and a military and political history of the First Empire will be disappointed. This series concentrates solely on Napoleon and the women in his life. Battles and events may be mentioned in passing, names familiar to those with a knowledge of the period's history are constantly dropped, but this is a series about love and lust. As such, the focus is on character. Like many other British series of the time - I Claudius, Upstairs Downstairs, etc. - Napoleon And Love is studio based with sets ranging from fairly realistic to little more than theatrical backdrops. To compensate, the costumes are amazing and very accurate - the elaborate uniforms of the men almost as gorgeous as the Empire-style gowns of the women. So even though the production may seem dated by today's standards, it still looks pretty good.
By the way, the Amazon review by Ted Fry makes several references to this being a BBC production. It's not. Napoleon And Love was made by Thames Television.
The whole enterprise is helped immeasurably by a fantastic supporting cast, many of whom will be recognised by viewers of other British series. Some were just starting out like Tim Curry, looking very dashing in a hussar's uniform as Josephine's son. Most look remarkably like the historical character they are playing, none more so than Peter Bowles as the peacock Murat.Read more ›
This is not all about bedrooms, bed scenes, dances, and the social life. There are some political ties, and some military, but it is the telling of "Napoleon & Love" not his wars. If you want battle scenes, there is not much. If you want bedroom scenes, you get plenty. But all is done under cover and clothed, somewhat. Keeping in mind this is 1795 through 1815, you get a grand glimpse of lowcut French costumes both in court and in the bedroom.
The series was created years ago, but seems quite contemporary since it is a period piece, almost historical documentary, but it is drama, romantic drama, and the Brits do that well.
Stars: Napoleon (Ian Holm-'Ratatouille' 'Lord of the Rings'). He's young, passionate, self-indulgent, ambicious, & pompous.
Josephine (Billie Whitlaw-'Quills'). Capt to Gen to Gov of Paris Murat (Peter Bowles-'Lytton's Diary' 'Rumpole of the Bailey' 'To the Manor Born' look those DVDs up). Berthier (Ronald Hines-'Middlemarch' 'We'll Meet Again' 'VanderValk' look those up).
Sorcha Cusack from "Jane Eyre" and one of my favorites John Welsh ("The Duchess of Duke Street" a must own DVD).
9 Episodes 52 min each all with SUBTITLES:
1 Rose 1795 Paris
Gen Napoleon (age 25) looks for a wife with $$. Life moves to a Paris position and other ladies are met. Rose is set upon him by Nobleman Paul Barras.
2 Josephine 1796
Napoleon leads the army in Italy.Read more ›
There is an episode for each mistress, or at least that's the aim, and the costumes and sets are very nice, for the time. I'm not certain this series will entertain generation x'ers - I grew up in the 70's and don't mind the lower production values and slower pace of this series. I'm after good acting and dialog, and this series is up to that.
For those who love other great 70's series, such as I. Claudius and Elizabeth R, well, this isn't quite that caliber, but it is in the same ballpark, and won't disappoint historical mini-series buffs.
Starring Ian Holm (as the Emperor Napoleon Bonaparte) Peter Jeffrey (as Tallyrand), Peter Bowles (as Murat), Catherine Schell (as Marie Walewska) Edward De Souza (as Joseph Bonaparte) Tim Curry, Christopher Neame, Stephanie Beacham, Tony Anholt and Billie Whitelaw as the Empress Josephine.
A superb 9 part miniseries biography of Napoleon told through the various women in his life---which filmmakers have traditionally prefered since bedrooms are cheaper than battlefields. It really should not work and usually does not(see the hideous miniseries with Armand Asante) but this one does magnificently. Film fans should note that besides covering new ground we also get defacto remakes of DESIREE(Episode 1) and CONQUEST with Schell giving Greta Garbo a very credible run for her money. There are several definitive performances here (Whitelaw, Bowles and Jeffrey) and Holm is in the top five best Napoleons I have ever seen...possible top three.
Most Recent Customer Reviews
If you can get past the fact that this mini-series is dated (released on DVD in 2011 but made by BBC in the mid 1970s) in its pace and staging -- AND you have a keen interest in... Read morePublished 3 months ago by HalKid2
Gave it as a gift to an enthusiast of all things Napolean. He absolutely loved it. Couldn't thank me enough.Published 4 months ago by "Cecilia"
My wife said "I would have watched it for the costumes even if the story hadn't been so good." Very well acted, and an interesting format: each episode is shaped around a... Read morePublished 12 months ago by Culper, Jr.
I love this serial. Napoleon was showed in a human way. By watching Napoleon & Love, I understood why he was unfaithful to Josephine and his necessity to have a son (an heir). Read morePublished on July 20, 2014 by MARIA G VAUGHN