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The Emperor's New Clothes got lost in the shuffle when FilmFour went to the wall, sitting on the shelf for a couple of years before a negligible release. Like the film itself, the premise had been around for years - Winston Churchill once pitched a variation to Charlie Chaplin - although it took decades to reach the screen: Napoleon never actually died on St Helena but escaped, leaving a double behind. Unfortunately the Emperor's plans to return to power were rather cut short by the double being unwilling to give up his cushy life on the island and own up to his true identity, and then compounding his sin by keeling over and dying, leaving the real Napoleon adrift in a Paris where nobody believes him and the asylums are full of people who think they're Napoleon.

Alan Taylor's film never quite makes enough of its premise and the last act is a little scruffy around the edges as Ian Holm's little Emperor finds himself settling down with Iben Hjejle's widowed fruit seller, planning her street sales campaign with military precision, but it's a pleasing little number that gets by on wistful charm rather than biting satire. It never quite comes to grips with France's divided attitude to Napoleon's legacy - part dictator, part liberator - although it takes some nice digs at the post-Napoleonic tourist trade as Waterloo becomes a tourist trap filled with souvenir sellers and inns where Napoleon slept ("I've never set foot in this place in my life," notes Napoleon before dozing off on a bed under a `Napoleon slept here' sign). Extremely likeable, with a rather splendid score by Rachel Portman the icing on the cake.

Extras are fairly perfunctory - brief featurette, trailer, cast interviews and raw behind the scenes footage.
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The Emperor's New Clothes got lost in the shuffle when FilmFour went to the wall, sitting on the shelf for a couple of years before a negligible release. Like the film itself, the premise had been around for years - Winston Churchill once pitched a variation to Charlie Chaplin - although it took decades to reach the screen: Napoleon never actually died on St Helena but escaped, leaving a double behind. Unfortunately the Emperor's plans to return to power were rather cut short by the double being unwilling to give up his cushy life on the island and own up to his true identity, and then compounding his sin by keeling over and dying, leaving the real Napoleon adrift in a Paris where nobody believes him and the asylums are full of people who think they're Napoleon.

Alan Taylor's film never quite makes enough of its premise and the last act is a little scruffy around the edges as Ian Holm's little Emperor finds himself settling down with Iben Hjejle's widowed fruit seller, planning her street sales campaign with military precision, but it's a pleasing little number that gets by on wistful charm rather than biting satire. It never quite comes to grips with France's divided attitude to Napoleon's legacy - part dictator, part liberator - although it takes some nice digs at the post-Napoleonic tourist trade as Waterloo becomes a tourist trap filled with souvenir sellers and inns where Napoleon slept ("I've never set foot in this place in my life," notes Napoleon before dozing off on a bed under a `Napoleon slept here' sign). Extremely likeable, with a rather splendid score by Rachel Portman the icing on the cake.

Paramount's US Region 1 NTSC DVD offers no extras, so you're better off seeking out FilmFour's UK PAL DVD which includes a brief featurette, trailer, cast interviews and raw behind the scenes footage.
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Napoleon died in 1821 in comfortable exile on the island of St. Helena, right? Nope. That's the alternative history premise in the lighthearted THE EMPEROR'S NEW CLOTHES.

Ian Holm, recently seen on the big screen as Bilbo Baggins in LORD OF THE RINGS, does double duty as Bonaparte and his look-alike, Eugene Lenormand. The latter is a swab jockey pulled off a passing merchant ship and secretly substituted for Bonaparte on St. Helena while the Emperor sets sail on the same vessel for France in the guise of the common sailor (with all his attendant duties). The plan is that, after enough time is allowed Napoleon to reach Paris, Lenormand will announce himself as a fraud to his British jailers, a revelation sure to make all the supermarket tabloids. Reading of this in Paris, the Emperor will emerge from the closet, so to speak, and retake his throne with the help of widespread popular support. The plan doesn't take into account that Eugene might enjoy his new existence in captivity. As he remarks to the French conspirators, he's been scrubbing ships' decks for all the years that Napoleon was Emperor, and now it's his turn to be pampered. So, in the meantime, the real Napoleon must cool his heels in Paris while staying in the home of the widow Truchaut (Iben Hjejle), alias "Pumpkin", who manages a cadre of street-roaming melon sellers. As luck would have it, Pumpkin's husband, who was one of the very few plotters privy to Napoleon's escape plan, died shortly before the Emperor's arrival. Oh, well.

Holm is splendid in his dual role, and Hjejle is engaging as Pumpkin. However, the two together, especially Holm's Napoleon persona, never quite made this viewer believe that the pair had a future together no matter how much Pumpkin wanted it. Having said that, the film's lesson is that sometimes being content with less is a virtue that is its own reward. Bonaparte has this epiphany when, in one of the movie's best scenes, he's introduced to several other "Napoleons" by a physician friend of Pumpkin's. And Holm certainly looks the part, especially because of his relatively short stature. There's a scene, a sight gag in itself, where Bonaparte is hugged by a former member of his Imperial Guard, an old comrade-in-arms apparently over six feet tall, and the Emperor is almost smothered in the clothing at the man's waist. Also to the film's credit is the cinematography and special FX, which effectively depict early 19th century Paris.

For me, the greatest flaw in this otherwise excellent film was the logic behind the storyline. Rather than leave control of events to the imposter left behind on St. Helena, Napoleon should have revealed himself to those he knew in Paris, some of whom would have certainly been of high social importance, and then, his identity established to their satisfaction, held a joint press conference with photo ops. (Even Pumpkin's doctor realized the true identity of her lodger for reasons I shall not reveal here.) That would have left the British to prove that their captive was not the real deal, a dodgy undertaking at best. However, such an approach by the scriptwriters would certainly have resulted in a film not nearly so much fun. Come to think of it, THE EMPEROR'S NEW CLOTHES is a gem best left like it is.
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on 31 July 2014
Veteran actor IAN HOLM enjoys himself immensely in THE EMPEROR'S NEW CLOTHES, a "what if" historical drama set in 1821.

On the remote Atlantic island of St. Helena, Napoleon Bonaparte (HOLM) lives in exile after his defeat at the Battle of Waterloo six years previously. With a small entourage of loyal followers and heavily guarded by British soldiers, the sea constantly patrolled by British warships, things look bleak for The Little Corporal. Yet his life is about to change forever...

A secret plot by a network of loyal Bonapartists is in motion. The idea is to swap the ex-Emperor with a double, able-bodied seaman Eugene Lenormand (also HOLM) while Napoleon escapes back to France via ship. Their identities will be switched for the duration of the journey. Once installed in Paris, Napoleon will reclaim his former throne after the doppelganger on St Helena, the real Eugene Lenormand, proclaims himself a fraud by revealing his true identity to a shocked world.

However, things do not go as planned. Napoleon's ship changes course mid-journey and he misses a crucial link with his supporter network but on finally arriving in Paris (via Belgium and a stop at the Waterloo battlefield!) he finds himself alone and friendless.

The contact he is due to meet here has just died and Napoleon soon strikes up a friendship with the man's young widow, melon seller Nicole "Pumpkin" Truchaut (IBEN HJEJLE) while at the same time inciting the jealousy of the local Doctor Lambert (TIM McINNERNY), who soon suspects that the new arrival is not all he seems to be. Meanwhile, on St Helena, the real Eugene Lenormand is beginning to enjoy his newfound role as Emperor...

Such is the premise of this brilliant period drama, filled with humour as Napoleon settles into his Parisian lifestyle while attempting to plan his inevitable return to power. How he adapts to civilian life, helping Nicole overturn the fortunes of her failing business, and later dealing with the bad news which arrives from the Atlantic, is the gist of the story.

HOLM does well in a dual role and makes a good Napoleon (a character he has, admittedly, played before) and he easily captures the Emperor's mannerisms and whims perfectly, while HJEJLE and McINNERNY are also great value - although the latter could have done with more screen time due to his wonderful verbal duelling with HOLM! There is a wealth of instantly recognizable British character actors to look out for, too. The period setting is well captured on screen and the dialogue superbly written.

Extra features on the disc include the Original Theatrical Trailer, short interviews with the main stars plus Director ALAN TAYLOR and Producer UMBERTO PASOLINI (15 minutes), and Behind The Scenes footage running to 16 minutes.

While many complex plots were discussed to rescue Napoleon from St Helena, none in reality were carried out. However, this fictional account of what might have been is cracking entertainment and highly recommended!
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on 2 January 2015
'Put on the hat, wear the uniform and stand like this and, hey presto, you're Napoleon' says Ian Holm (sort of) in one of the extras. He's just being modest, of course, but he certainly makes a fine Emperor and his co-star, Iben Hjejle, is equally fine (and very lovely) in this fanciful tale of the Emperor at St Helena and beyond.
I don't like fanciful tales of real historical events - remember that dreadful rubbish 'Braveheart' - partly because people tend to believe the film, play or book rather than the actual history; and there's no need for it as history - well done - is exciting enough. Richard III has certainly suffered this over the years! I make an exception here: this is a lovely tale of Napoleon escaping from exile in St Helena and returning to France in the hope of another Hundred Days Plus Plus. He doesn't make it but rather meets and falls in love with the lovely Pumpkin (Iben Hjejle); who could fail not to.
A mixture of comedy, sadness and excitement - all in perfect balance - makes the a wonderful film.
A fanciful tale, of course, but I'd like to see a DNA test of those bones in Les Invalides.
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on 18 February 2011
Best of British film making. Ian Holm at his best. Loved it! Recommend to anyone with a romantic historical streak! Great Sunday afternoon film!!!
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on 3 March 2012
This is a beautiful film. Post-Napoleonic Paris is recreated with lovely buildings, clothing, children, furniture, wood burners and candles.

Oh for a fortnight's holiday there.

The contrast between the real ex-emperor living incognito in France, while his absurd double lords it over staff in exile far away on St Helena, engenders both comedy and a strange sense of yearning.

When he first arrives in Paris, Napoleon is angrily determined to regain his throne, but then a developing and reciprocated attraction towards an impoverished but alluring young widow begins to nudge out his ambition for more military glory.

One of the joys of the film is the gentle portrayal of the former grand strategist beginning to see that this newfound tranquility and his ever closer union with 'Pumpkin' and the boy she cares for, possess a value far higher than any successful return to power with its likely cost in renewed warfare.

The acting in this fictional tale is just perfect and the underlying morality of the storyline makes it an experience genuinely to treasure.
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VINE VOICEon 7 March 2011
I don't normally bother with films like this as I find them too clever.

It is a what if story. Napoleon is exiled to St Helena and a plan is hatched to have him replaced by a nobody. It is handy that Ian Holm was available as Napoleon and even more handy that he was also available to play his double. This got over the problem of his British captors not knowing that he has been substituted.

He makes his way back to France and is unrecongised but finds love. The scenes in Paris are well filmed as obviously Paris doesn't look like that anymore.

There is an interesting scene when he uses to organisational ability to galvanise all the melon sellers like a military campaign to make a lot of money. We see the old Napoleon with his maps and stragetic thinking.

He tells his new partner Pumpkin who he is but she doesn't believe.

When he tells a doctor who he is he takes him to lunatic asylum and he sees what happens to people who claim to be Napoloen. I tHought that was a very clever scene.

I won't give away the ending. It was the ending that concerned me as it could have a fiasco of the whole story but it wAs well done.

All in all an underrated gem that I had not heard of before. Desrves a lot more publicity as Ian Holm is a geat actor and he did it well.
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on 4 September 2011
This little film is an absolute deliight! I saw it half way through on more four TV and wanted to see it all the way through so was delighted to find it here. It's a "What if?" story of Napoleon. He doesn't die in exile but is smuggled back to France to try and regain his Emporer's throne. It doesn't quite work that way! Ian Holm is just wonderful as Napoleon and his "double" Eugene Lenormande. This is just a really good fun adventure with some good humour (Waterloo as a tourist attraction - this DID actually happen. I recommend the following a) buy this film, b)buy a big bar of chocolate or bottle of wine and c)watch it on rainy Sunday afternoon. If you like historical based costume romps you'll enjoy this film very much!
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on 17 April 2012
Ian Holm reprises his role as Napoleon - previously the only good scene in Time Bandits - in a charming film, around the 'what if' scenario of Napoleon managing to escape from St Helena.

I saw it on TV some time ago when the film had a far better edit, it surprises me that the DVD should cut short a couple of important moments, (which is why I only gave it four stars).

The Paris townscape and mainly drab coloured costumes are spot on. The film is a good companion to Ridley Scott's The Duelists.
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