I'm a big fan of an emerging film genre I call the historical what-if story. "Shakespeare In Love" is the most well-known example of these yarns that skirt around the shadowy edges of known fact to create a fanciful fiction featuring a well-known figure. Others include the current, brilliant "The Cat's Meow," about a murder on William Randolph Hearst's yacht, and "Dick," a great 1999 comedy which presupposed that the Watergate scandal's Deep Throat was actually two ditzy teenage girls who overheard Richard Nixon's conspiracies while working as dog-walkers for the presidential pooch.
"The Emperor's New Clothes" takes a similar approach to the last days of Napoleon Bonaparte. As you may know, history proper records that after his defeat at Waterloo, the distinguished French general and pompous self-declared emperor died in exile under British guard in 1821. But this latest gem of this entertaining genre imagines the diminutive duce escaping back to Paris with grandiose plans to reclaim the throne, only to get waylaid into a more humble life as a middle-class fruit merchant.
Driven by a fantastic dual performance from Ian Holm as both Napoleon and the peasant look-alike who takes his place on the prison island of St. Helena, the film is funny, insightfully human and a delightful lark for history buffs without actually requiring much prerequisite knowledge.
Continue reading: The Emperor's New Clothes Review