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Hollywood’s Waterloo | Apollo Magazine

Introducing Rakewell, Apollo’s wandering eye on the art world. Look for regular publications featuring a libertine perspective on art and museum history.

Your itinerant correspondent was satisfied to learn this week that, without being discouraged by the derision encountered by The last duel, his most recent foray into the past, Ridley Scott continues his film on Napoleon. Last I heard, Jodie Comer won’t bring it Kill Eve energy to the role of Josephine after all, but at least her replacement, Vanessa Kirby (formerly of The crown), is no stranger to playing petulant royalty. While the title, Musette, is hardly encouraging – let’s hope it gets sent before the film hits the big screen – Joaquin Phoenix as the Corsican conqueror may be a more entertaining prospect than it looks. Despite all his methodical intensity, playing on the spectrum between Johnny Cash and the Joker, the actor generally retains a glint in his eyes.

Perhaps the only portrayal of Napoleon that counts as a masterpiece is, and rightly so, a French portrayal: Albert Dieudonné’s uncomfortably intense performance in the 1927 Abel Gance epic (no wonder that the actor wanted to be buried in his costume from the film). Even if Stanley Kubrick would surely have provided real competition if he had managed to get his Napoleon project off the ground? In the absence of true greatness, Rakewell admits to having a weakness for the freest fantasies of the small corporal as imagined by Hollywood – and for the great actors spouting wooden dialogues. While the Emperor of Terry Camilleri in Bill & Ted’s excellent adventure (1989), will always hold a special place in our hearts, there is no denying the first place to Marlon Brando. There is something astonishing about the fact that in the same year that At the water’s edge came out, Brando starred in the bizarre Technicolor biopic which is Desired (1954). If you’re not hypnotized by sideburns and the ponytail, there’s the jaw-dropping English diction in which Brando seems to channel John Gielgud playing a mobster – as well as the Sneaking General; the black looks next to the trim have never looked so good.

Yet maybe Musette could be a competitor after all? It is no exaggeration to say that Scott Gucci House recently exceeded all the expectations of your roaming correspondent. We don’t know if it’s good or bad, but we are convinced that it is some kind of masterpiece. If there is one powerful actor of Italian origin who should really play Bonaparte in a biopic, it is Lady Gaga. We throw our prayers on the winds and hope they reach Ridley Scott.

Got a story for Rakewell? Contact us at or via @Rakewelltweets.

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