Tribeca ’07: Napoleon and Me (review)

The foul, bloodthirsty beast is reigning over the island…

You know those wacky European films in which people scream a lot and hit one another with cheeses and dried sausages all in an expression of deep love? This is one of those movies. The disgraced emperor of the title is almost mere background to this rambunctious and spritely film about Martino, an angry young man hired to work as secretary to the Bonaparte when the exile lands on Martino’s home of Elba in 1814 — oh, his relationship with the defeated old man, whom he despises with a passion only angry young men can muster, is nothing like what he expects it will be, but that’s nothing to the madcap twists Martino’s romantic and family life will take as a result of his growing up just a little bit. The wonderful French actor Daniel Auteuil (Sade) makes Napoleon a surprising wit, if a sad one, and Elio Germano is craftily funny as Martino, but it’s the two women who shape the lad’s life who steal the film: fiery Sabrina Impacciatore as his sharp-tongued sister Diamantina and the luscious Monica Bellucci (The Brothers Grimm) as the mysterious baroness with whom Martino — half her age — has been having an affair. Screening in the World Narrative Competition, this may well be the best zany Napoleonic-era romantic comedy costume drama ever.

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