Ridley Scott Vs. The French

The French have never really gotten over things, particularly where the British are concerned. Centuries of antagonism on both sides resulted in a litany of famous military losses, from Agincourt, through Trafalgar to Waterloo. Even post-the age of war, the fact that the world adopted English as its second language, and the dollar as its reserve currency, leaving France’s primary exports as rude waiters and fancy bread, has really stung our Gaellic friends.


So when one of Britain’s greatest living filmmakers got around to making a movie about one of France’s greatest historical figures, it was almost always going to cause some kind of reaction. The response from the premiere of Napoleon in Paris was wildly enthusiastic, but reviews and wider social media reactions have been mixed.

Ridley Scott’s trademark bluntness has been on display when dismissing historians who he says are nitpicking some aspects. He responded to criticism from historian Dan Snow by pointing out that it is a movie and narrative and drama are as important. Now, French GQ magazine has said the movie was:

“…deeply clumsy, unnatural and unintentionally clumsy…”

Even worse for a Frenchman, Le Point Magazine has gone further and says it commits what is, to French eyes, a cardinal sin. They say it is:

“…anti-French and pro-British…”

Sacre bleu! Les rosbifs ont gagné et on n’aime pas ça du tout, notre supériorité hautaine ne le permet pas! With all the blunt force of will of Brian Blessed as the Duke of Exeter, in Branagh’s Henry V, pouring scorn on the French court, Ridley Scott had this to say about their point of view.

“The French don’t even like themselves.”

In an interview with the BBC, talking about reactions to the film, he went on to say that the Paris audience at the premiere loved the movie. When asked again about the historian’s viewpoints, he pointed out that they weren’t there either.


The film’s theatrical run is 158 minutes. There are rumors of a four-hour extended cut for Apple TV+ which Scott himself has spoken about. This time, however, he says he cannot talk about that.

Napoleon opens exclusively in cinemas on Wednesday. To the picture house!

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