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Starting with our second Snark Week, I’ve picked a shitty frock flick to recap, because I love sharing the blow-by-blows with you. While I’ve asked you to choose for the past few years, I decided to executive decision things this year, since y’all keep refusing to choose this gem — so this year, I will recap Napoleon and Josephine: A Love Story (1987). Armand Assante as Napoleon! Jacqueline Bisset as Josephine! First, you must know that the costumes for this were designed by Michel Fresnay, who has designed numerous operas as well as a few TV movies, and was nominated for an Emmy for Best Costume Design. Let’s do this!
In case you missed them, check out recaps part one, two, and three!
All kinds of random characters are introduced. I faithfully screencap them, assuming they are going to be important down the road. They are not. I delete the screencaps if they are boys and not wearing anything exciting.
For example: These are royalists plotting against Napoleon. We’re supposed to care even though they get dropped.
Napoleon is going to be First Consul, making this 1799. He takes Josephine to the Tuileries palace and tells her they’re moving in. She’s worried this is All Too Much.
This woman is allergic to long sleeves.
That’s not a great fit. I do like the standing collar.
I DON’T NEED TO SEE SEXYTIMES BETWEEN THESE TWO. Also note ridiculous back-opening shirt on Napoleon.
Napoleon and Josephine are throwing an Official Ball! Napoleon is annoyed at the skimpy dresses all the ladies are wearing and insists his servants keep building up the fires. Someone throws a rock through the window with an anti-Napoleonic slogan. Josephine worries but Napoleon is unfazed.
It’s not just that the dresses are skimpy, but that the dancers are pulling them up to their knees! Napoleon has a point!
Therese is keeping it Grecian, Josephine is in some kind of black and orange sparkly Halloween gown … with cold shoulders.
The real Josephine was a fashion icon for a reason, and that didn’t involve cold shoulders or garish colors | Portrait of Josephine de Beauharnais by François Gérard, 1801, Hermitage Museum
Yes they were into Grecian, but this just reads 1970s to me.
NAPOLEON GETS A NEW SUIT.
Napoleon snubs Therese, telling Josephine that her friend is slutty.
Therese is wearing history’s first double-sided boob tape.
In possibly my favorite sartorial moment of the entire series, Talleyrand is hanging with his mistress, Catherine Grand, who is dressed like Regency Malibu Barbie. Napoleon tells Talleyrand he should marry her, not for romantic reasons, but just because it’s how Napoleon wants things organized. Talleyrand proposes, and at first Catherine thinks he’s joking.
THE PEACH FABRIC. THE COLD SHOULDER. THE SILVER LAME WRAP. THE PINK FEATHER. THE RINGLETS!
I COULDN’T TAKE MY EYES OFF IT.
Also THE TAN.
Of course, the real Catherine Grand wasn’t insane and didn’t dress like she was | Portrait of Catherine Worlée, Princesse de Talleyrand-Périgord by François Gérard, 1804-05, via Wikimedia Commons
Hortense wanders through with her (new) dog. Louis Bonaparte is hot to trot, not realizing who she is. He tries to flirt, she offers some excellent Bonaparte insults, and finally Josephine explains who she is.
Louis has some nice embroidery, Hortense is rocking the shade of pink I loved at age 8.
At least she’s figured out how to put her hair up?
Hortense has embroidery on her dress too.
Louis wants to marry Hortense. At first Napoleon isn’t into it, until Josephine points out that it will join her blood with his blood.
Holy crap, long sleeves!
This is not bad!
Talleyrand does some scheming with another guy while their wives hang.
These two have gone FULL BABY HUEY.
In case I’ve confused you, here is Baby Huey, who was a cartoon character in the 1950s.
They’re actually referencing a real (exaggerated) style worn by the “Merveilleuses” who, along the the male “Incroyables,” were an aristocratic sub-culture focused on excess and luxury in 1790s France. That doesn’t make that bonnet a flattering shape, although props for doing one of the weirder styles | Les Merveilleuses, after Carle Vernet, 1797
Napoleon, Josephine, and Hortense are busy getting ready to go to the opera. We learn through dialogue that Hortense and Louis are married. Josephine is taking forever to get ready, so she tells Napoleon to go ahead without her, and they’ll meet there.
Unnecessary cold shoulder, but I don’t hate this! It’s delicate and pretty.
Hortense, on the other hand, is wearing hideous powder blue with stupid puffy sleeves and pearls.
The underdeveloped royalists plan to blow up Napoleon’s carriage as he passes through a particular square. After various allegedly suspenseful carriage sequences, they fail. Napoleon swears he will get revenge.
This poor mob cap gets blown up in the process, however.
Both Josephine and Hortense have pretty opera capes, but they go by too fast to screencap except for this. Look at those cartridge pleats and the dramatic standing collar!
Hortense’s cape is made of suspiciously shiny fabric.
Afterwards … Napoleon casually asks Josephine who might be responsible for the bomb. She suggests the royalist guy above. Napoleon storms out to take his revenge … which is then dropped (unless maybe I spaced out?).
More of the comparatively-pretty dress.
I think I’m just so relieved about the lack of puffed sleeves.
While hanging out in bed, Napoleon casually drops that he’s going to make himself emperor. Josephine worries.
Holy shit, an actually properly front-opening shirt!
Lecturing Napoleon in a frilly nightie.
IT’S CORONATION TIME, BABY! First, Josephine meets with the pope and tells him she’s worried that because she and Napoleon were married in a civil ceremony, many don’t see their marriage as legitimate. The pope says “okay then let’s do this!” and marries them.
Alright, I like the standing lace and that tiara is stunning!
The tiara she wears in David’s painting is similar | Coronation of Emperor Napoleon I and Coronation of the Empress Josephine in Notre-Dame de Paris, December 2, 1804 by Jacques-Louis David and Georges Rouget, 1805-07, Louvre Museum
But here’s the real deal. Granted, they didn’t have AliExpress when this was filmed | Empress Josephine’s coronation tiara
Next up, the coronation! Which happened in 1804. This was the specific episode that got the Emmy nomination, and okay, I can see why.
Everyone is dressed to the nines!
Lots of guys in sparkly court wear.
Napoleon’s suit is for sale, and if you click through you can see many more images in very high resolution. I’m actually quite impressed.
That’s some nice goldwork!
Talleyrand has an excellent collar | (C) Tony Frank
Honestly, color me impressed, because compare this with…
David’s painting of the occasion | Coronation of Emperor Napoleon I and Coronation of the Empress Josephine in Notre-Dame de Paris, December 2, 1804 by Jacques-Louis David and Georges Rouget, 1805-07, Louvre Museum
Napoleon in embroidered satin and an ermine cloak.
Josephine in her coronation gown, flanked by ladies-in-waiting.
Embroidered satin and velvet | Photo by Michel Lipchitz/AP/Shutterstock (7338838a)
David’s painting of the coronation | Coronation of Emperor Napoleon I and Coronation of the Empress Josephine in Notre-Dame de Paris, December 2, 1804 by Jacques-Louis David and Georges Rouget, 1805-07, Louvre Museum
While there are several solo/front-facing portraits of Josephine in her coronation robes, the dresses in each are slightly different from the David painting/each other. This print was released on the day of the coronation, and even still I can see differences. Nonetheless, it’s the closest and thus we’ll use it for comparison | Jean Louis Charles Pauquet after Jean-Baptiste Isabey, Grand Habit de sa Majesté l’Imperatrice Josephine le jour du Couronnement, National Library of Spain
I feel like they went a bit too big on the sleeve puffs, but then I hate them in general.
I’m not loving the pearls, which should instead be some kind of goldwork.
Where are the back straps for the red velvet train? Yes I’m nitpicking, that’s what we do during Snark Week.
The sleeves should be trimmed with strips of goldwork | (C) Tony Frank
One of the Bonaparte sisters with Therese, whose metallic is awfully shiny.
Looks like they’ve done belts in the TV costumes, vs. a more integral front closing piece in the painting | Coronation of Emperor Napoleon I and Coronation of the Empress Josephine in Notre-Dame de Paris, December 2, 1804 by Jacques-Louis David and Georges Rouget, 1805-07, Louvre Museum
Pauline and another sister.
Compare! Coronation of Emperor Napoleon I and Coronation of the Empress Josephine in Notre-Dame de Paris, December 2, 1804 by Jacques-Louis David and Georges Rouget, 1805-07, Louvre Museum
Stay tuned for the finale of Napoleon and Josephine: a Love Story tomorrow!