Mon, 12 August 2019
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."
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