I shall never forget my first encounter with Abel Gance’s Napoleon. I saw it under the most unpromising circumstances — fragments of the great original, shown on a home projector, 25 years after its original release. Yet those fragments changed my life.
I was 15, still at school in Hampstead, and already obsessed by the cinema. My parents had given me a projector for my 11th birthday. Since the only films available to me were silent films, I found myself immersed in the rarefied atmosphere of a forgotten art.
As home movies were being abandoned in favour of television, I found a surprising number in London’s junk shops. Among the best were the French silent films.
My admiration for them, however, was subject to the occasional shattering blow.