30 January 2011

Napoleon by Way of Kubrick

Cinephiles and historians rejoice!  Stanley Kubrick, known for his diligence and attention to detail in his artistic work, spent years conducting research on Napoleon Bonaparte with the intent of crafting the definitive bio-pic of the famed French emperor.  Only one word characterizes Kubrick's work, and that word is, "exhaustive."  He traveled the world, visiting archives that may have a tangential piece of information that may prove interesting somehow.  Whole boxes of index cards were crafted, detailing Napoleon's daily activities; if he had a ham sandwich on a lazy Sunday afternoon, it's documented in Kubrick's notes somewhere, along with who served it and whether the crust was cut off first.  Seriously, the research is so thorough I don't even think that example is hyperbolic.

TASCHEN Books compiled and published a massive, ten volume box containing Kubrick's research (including his completed screenplay) in a limited edition release a couple years ago.  Even the $1500 price tag didn't discourage dedicated enthusiasts from buying the entire run.  TASCHEN's forthcoming re-issue is a single volume edition priced at $69.99 (Amazon has a pre-order price of $44.09).

The title, The Greatest Movie Never Made, suggests that this is intended for fans and students of Kubrick but I suspect that more than a few academics will salivate over the prospect of access to the treasure trove of information compiled by the writer/director.  Buyers also get access to an online database of nearly 17,000 photographs from Kubrick's collection.  It took Kubrick years to amass this wealth of information.  It may take most readers years to properly digest it.  Somehow, that's as it should be.

Napoleon is second only to Daniel Boone as my favorite historical figure, and I can tell you that this is near the top of my I Want This but Know I Will Likely Never Actually Pay to Own It list.