Friday new releases: 24 November 2023
Napoleon, Thanksgiving and Freelance are in cinemas and Rustin is on Netflix
Can a three-hour film be too short? Of course it can. Some films provide so much pleasure you wish they could go on forever.
But can a three-hour film also be unsatisfying in more traditional ways? Some of the story is rushed or elided. There are questions that don’t get answered. Character development feels under cooked.
You emerge blinking into the karaoke and spacies parlour that is the modern multiplex foyer, feeling like there was something missing from what you just watched. That it raced to a conclusion, rather than moving deliberately. That despite spending so much time with an important historical character, you still don’t really know them. Would another hour have helped?
The specific film I am talking about is Ridley Scott’s new biography of one of colossal figures of European history, starring Joaquin Phoenix as Napoleon and Vanessa Kirby as Joséphine, the great love of his life.
As exceptionally well made as you would expect from the octagenerian Scott, Napoleon at any given moment I was being entertained but still detached. The details of the various battles were absorbing but the European politics of the time was mostly baffling and I felt that the presentation of the tensions and passions in Napoleon and Joséphine’s love life did not always reconcile with the content of the letters that the film relies so much on.