The 1001 Movies Podcast

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From Garrett Chaffin-Quiray, 1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die:

"Rene Clair's The Million opens on a Parisian rooftop.  Two lovers flirt and retire to their respective apartments, after which the camera dollies along the skyline to a one-shot sequence using forced perspective, miniatures, and matte paintings.  Such a tricky sequence demonstrates a profoundly advanced cinematic style while also revealing how Clair's film is no throwaway musical comedy.

"A poor artist named Michel (Rene Lefevre) owes money to various creditors.  Engaged to the pure-hearted Beatrice (Annabella), he disregards her to chase after the floozy Wanda (Vanda Greville) and otherwise keeps up with his friends Prosper (Louis Allibert).  When the gangster Grandpa Tulip (Paul Ollivier) races into the apartment building to avoid the police, Beatrice gives him an old jacket of Michel's out of spite.  Afterwards, Michel and Prosper realize that a lottery ticket they purchased is a millionaire's prize - but the ticket is in the jacket Beatrice gave Grandpa Tulip, who in turned pawned it to the tenor Sopranelli (Constantin Siroesco), who will soon travel to America.  Thus the caper comedy of The Million is set in motion.  Mix-ups, misidentification, disguises, upsets, reconcilliation, and musical numbers follow, all of it to bring Michel and Beatrice together and restore the lottery ticket to its rightful owner.  Along the way a thug in tuxedo tails cries for a love song, a race for the jacket is scored to the sounds of a rugby match, and the opportunistic demands of Michel's creditors and neighbor weigh in on his perceived riches.

"Perhaps most remarkable among its virtues is the film's integration of synch-sound recording.  Expository dialogue is offered to still camera setups whereas lesser remarks, often viewed as whispers between characters, are left in silence.  To cover these gaps in the spoken record, Ambient music stitches together each set piece with occasional bursts of song.  More fluid and visually dynamic than many early sound films, The Million is also more entertaining than many subsequent talkies.  In large part this is a credit to Clair's screenplay and deft direction, but it is also due to a willing cast carrying through the demands of a gentle fantasy."

Have a comment or question for the host?  Email Sean at 1001moviespodcast@gmail.com or follow him on Twitter at @1001MoviesPC.

Direct download: Episode_89_Le_Million_1931.mp3
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From Adrian Martin, 1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die:

"A lot of walking occurs in this engaging Argentinian crime lark.  The on-foot journey of two swindlers, Marcos (Ricardo Darin) and Juan (Gaston Pauls) offers, in passing, an understated documentary on Buenos Aries in the 21st century.  But as these characters imagine the scams they might pull, their steps propel them into the charged space of a fiction.

"Debut director Fabian Bielinsky maintains a firm balance between the mundane and the thrilling.  Much of the film eschews a musical score, giving extra weight to the passing seconds.  But when music is finally allowed in, the effect carries a more energetic wallop than in most bigger-budget caper movies.

"Bielinsky clearly adores the Hollywood classics by directors such as Billy Wilder and Joseph Mankiewicz concerning elaborate, double-crossing deceits.  Juan learns early on not to take at face value whatever misfortune occurs around him, because it could so easily be a con engineered by the shifty Marcos.  Such a tricky narrative courts the risk, inherent in this type of story, of creating an ever-escalating spiral of one-upmanship.  But Bielinsky has a special trump card up his sleeve, and that is the reality factor.  The moment in which Argentina's dire economic crisis intervenes is a real highlight."

Have a comment or question for the host?  Email Sean at 1001moviespodcast@gmail.com or follow him on Twitter at @1001MoviesPC.

Direct download: Episode_88_Nine_Queens_2000.mp3
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