DATELINE: MOVIE MASHUP
Here’s another gem that slipped through the cracks about ten years ago. Monsieur N is the story of Napoleon’s final incarceration at St. Helena and his mysterious death.
This film gives itself a disadvantage by actually having Napoleon speaking in French—and his British guards speaking in English. So, there are lots of subtitles for the disadvantage of people who hate to read.
Richard E. Grant is marvelous as the new governor of the island who is furious about having a living legend as his prisoner—a man who thinks about escaping and turning the world on its ear. It’s like Wile E. Coyote dealing with that pesky Road Runner.
Jay Rodan is cute as a button, even when he pastes on a mustache and tries to pass as Basil Heathcote, young officer assigned to Napoleon, as a man 20 years older in flash forward scenes.
The film belongs darkly to French actor Phillippe Torreton who plays the emperor turned general prisoner into some kind of a scheming evil genius. His Napoleon belongs up there simply because playing Monsieur N. is joy for any actor.
Condescending, venal, temperamental, Napoleon Buonaparte is delicious movie script catnip. How can you go wrong with a murder mystery wrapped in an enigma?
It all may be true, which is even juicier. It’s Nappy time, but you won’t take a nap while the movie is playing on your screen. The issue of who poisoned Napoleon requires Hercule Poirot to join the screenplay. Instead we have lame Jay Rodan, but he is easy on the eyes as the callow officer on the governor’s tricky staff.
The film is now on DVD, and you have no excuse to avoid a history lesson with panache.