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Maria and Napoleon
Independent distrib PolArt Video are responsible for the release of Leonard Buczkowski's Marysia I Napoleon a.k.a Maria and Napoleon (1966). A story of love and political intrigues pic offers a hilarious but ultimately disappointing read on some well-known events.
Napoleon (Gustaw Holoubek) meets 20-something-year-old countess Maria Walewska (Beata Tyszkiewicz) and the two embark on a passionate rendezvous. At first passive and obedient Maria quickly learns how to manipulate the Emperor. In time Napoleon becomes a puppet in Maria's hands.
Skipping between contemporary reality and the 1800s Maria and Napoleon is an intriguing attempt at twisting the validity of known historic facts. Conveniently betting on humor as the missing link in a scattered sea of images the film does not pretend to be original, it aims to entertain.
The main character, a charismatic French tourist wandering around the Polish countryside who enters a large estate where the portraits of Napoleon and Maria are placed next to each other, is stunned to discover that he looks exactly like the Emperor. A beautiful woman also appears looking very much like Maria. The two begin a fascinating conversation which overlaps with the actual affair between Maria and Napoleon.
Aside from the offbeat humor and the abundance of intrigues in this story I don't believe there is much one could applaud. The tact with which the subject is approached is at times disrupted, granting Maria and Napoleon its more memorable moments, but in the larger scheme of things the modern take on Napoleon's affair is less than impressive.
I attempted to read between the lines to see if I could envision Napoleon as a totalitarian symbol Buczkowski conveniently targeted to deliver an anti-communist tirade of proclamations about the Polish state but if such was indeed the director's intent I could hardly decode it.
The contemporary fragments from the story on the other hand do offer some intriguing references to Moscow and the imminent defeat but once again these were innocuous and not as far reaching as I hoped they would be. With this in mind the remaining humor added to spruce up the affair was welcomed but not enough to elevate the story where I felt it could have been.
How Does the DVD Look?
Presented in an aspect ratio of 1.33:1 the print provided by PolArt is in terrible condition. Multiple scratches, debris, and marks are seen all over the print. The color scheme is completely off as is the actual framing (it appears that two different prints have been used to complete the final version of this film and even the colors here are incredibly different). To be honest with you I don't know if there is anything that I could say is in acceptable form here: from the poor VHS-derived look to the frame skips this release is as poor as you could imagine.
How Does the DVD Sound?
Presented with a Polish DD track and optional English subtitles the audio is just as shaky as the video is. There is a notable amount of hissing and noise which does not necessarily prevent one from following the story but it is there and very annoying. Once again, I must note that what we have here is of VHS-esque quality at very, very best.
Aside from text-format filmographies for the cast there is absolutely nothing else to be found here.
I am aware that Leonard Buczkowski is credited for much of the revival of post-war Polish cinema. His works Forbidden Songs (1947) and The Eagle (1959) are very highly regarded yet difficult to track in any form. Yet, to be honest I don't think that such dismal presentations as the one addressed above does any film aficionado any good. Skip it.