'Napoleon' conquers French box office, if not critics

AFP , Saturday 2 Dec 2023

Ridley Scott's film "Napoleon" has stormed to the top of the French box office ratings, figures showed on Wednesday, despite sometimes savage reviews from critics in France who took aim at historical inaccuracies and the portrayal of the emperor.


One person in three who went to the cinema in France over the last week went to see the film starring Joaquin Phoenix which features massive battle scenes, according to the weekly CBO figures.

Some 764,000 tickets were sold for Napoleon on its first week of release in France, ahead of "Hunger Games" with 370,275 tickets sold and now into the second week of its release. New films come out in France every Wednesday.

The film "Napoleon", originally shot in English, is being shown in France both in the English with subtitles and dubbed French versions, giving viewers the choice between languages.

It has also been the subject of a massive promotional campaign with posters of Phoenix in Napoleon's iconic bicorn hat frowning down at passengers at metro stations across Paris.

But many critics in France have been less enthusiastic about the film made by a British director and shot originally in the language of its old cross-Channel enemy.

"Ridley Scott's latest film makes Napoleon into gloomy and mediocre character," stormed a recent commentary in the right-wing Le Figaro daily. "Such sabotage is part of a logic that demeans and ridicules," it added.

"Clumsy and deliberately unworthy of its poorly crafted subject, the biopic with Joaquin Phoenix offers no point of view, neither on the man, nor on the myth," added the left-wing Liberation for good measure.

Le Monde was nore nuanced, noting it is also a portrait of Napoleon's complex relationship with his wife Josephine, played by Vanessa Kirby,

It said that Scott superimposes the "emperor's love life onto his feats on the battlefield, leaving aside the political question."

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