Who’s buried in Napoleon’s tomb? That’s the central riddle of Monsieur N., Antoine de Caunes’ elaborately told speculation about the little Corsican’s final days. Narrator Basil Heathcote (Jay Rodan), Napoleon’s aide-de-camp during his imprisonment on the small British island of St. Helena from 1815 to 1821, says at the beginning of the film that he doesn’t intend to “rewrite history, but…to shed some light on the puzzling events that I witnessed.” René Manzor’s script then takes its sweet time getting to these events—most prominently, when, after Napoleon’s death in 1821, the body of his recently deceased butler and rumored half-brother, Cipriani (Bruno Putzulu), was discovered to be missing. For much of its 127 minutes, though, Monsieur N. plays more like a breezy Merchant Ivory drama than a mystery. Though technically a prisoner in St. Helena’s bucolic Longwood House, Napoleon (Philippe Torreton) lives luxuriously, dining on imported food and surrounded by his staff and mistresses. The whole arrangement costs the British government 8 million pounds a month, and it doesn’t seem to have dampened M Bonaparte’s spirit in the least: When his uptight new jailer, Gov. Hudson Lowe (Richard E. Grant), requests a meeting with his captive, he’s made to wait three days. Napoleon’s portrayal here isn’t all tyrannical, however. Torreton plays him with distracted, stuck-in-the-glory-days gravitas, and Manzor gives the character plenty of bon mots to prove that he’s usually the smartest person in the room (“The man who escapes admits he’s a prisoner”), as well as a burgeoning romance with an Englishwoman named Betsy (Siobhan Hewlett) to show his (slightly) softer side. Though Monsieur N.’s engaging first half, with strong performances by both Torreton and Grant, is anchored in the past, the movie flashes forward with increasing frequency to Heathcote’s puzzle piecing after the exhumation of Napoleon’s body in 1840, showing his questioning of the now-gray-haired staffers who served at Longwood. The back-and-forth is, at best, distracting, and its culmination—a reunion with Lowe that builds to Heathcote’s frenzied declarations of And this happened! And that! And this, too!—is just plain silly. Engrossing up to this point, Monsieur N. ultimately deserves to be dismissed as Lowe does Heathcote: with slow, sarcastic applause.—Tricia Olszewski