Abel Gance was one of the fathers of the cinema, and his Napoleon is one of the most groundbreaking movies ever made. The 1927 silent movie blew through the technical envelope, using all sorts of methods that were incredibly cutting edge at the time, including tons of camera movement, extensive location shooting, hand held shots, split screen, POV shots and a ton of other things. As a result Napoleon feels very modern - or at least not as dated as other films from the era.
But what Napoleon is most famous for is its final reel. Gance shot the climactic moments, as Napoleon invades Italy, using a triptych style, placing three cameras side by side to get a full sweep of a scene. This was long before widescreen, and Gance wanted to get across the epic nature of the scene by breaking out of the (at the time) square screen. Most people have only ever seen the center panel of the triptych, as Gance's film was trimmed significantly for American release.
Now there's a restoration playing in San Francisco that presents the comple FIVE AND A HALF HOUR version, with the restored triptych, and with a live orchestral score by the Oakland East Bay Symphony. This is an astonishing event, and any film lover in the area get out to the Paramount Theater on March 24, 25, 31st or April 1st and see this spectacle with their own eyes. It's not a cheap ticket but it will be a cinematic experience unparalleled. I'm thinking about driving up the coast to catch it myself.