An impoverished artist discovers he has purchased a winning lottery ticket at the very moment his creditors come to collect. The only problem is, the ticket is in the pocket of his coat. . . which he left at his girlfriend's apartment. . . who gave the coat to a man hiding from the police. . . who sells the coat to an opera singer who uses it during a performance. By turns charming and inventive, René Clair's lyrical masterpiece had a profound impact on not only the Marx Brothers and Charlie Chaplin, but on the American Musical as a whole.
Welcome back one of the treasures of international cinema. In 1929-30, when Hollywood was stymied by the arrival of talkies, a Frenchman named René Clair set about reinventing the movies for the world of sound. Rather than enslave his camera--and imagination--to a microphone in a potted palm, Clair embraced sound as a liberating new dimension of the motion picture. His effervescent comedy-musical-romance Le Million
doesn't just feature a witty commingling of dialogue and song--it's a jeu d'esprit
in which every movement, every cut, every sound effect (or absence thereof) contributes to a lilting rhythm.
The plot is precisely as airy and as farcically complicated as it needs to be. Suffice it to say that there's this threadbare jacket with a winning lottery ticket in the pocket. It becomes separated from its starving-artist owner and leads him and numerous others a merry chase over the roofs of Paris, through the urban underworld, and onto the very stage of the Opera. You'll wonder more than once whether the Marx Brothers were taking notes.
For no good reason whatsoever, Le Million remained out of circulation for decades, except for a few bleary dupe videos. Now we have a crystal-clear DVD that does full justice to Lazare Meerson's ethereal settings, Georges Périnal's luminous camerawork, the enchanting beauty of leading lady Annabella, and René Clair's world-class comedy masterpiece. There shall be dancing in the streets. --Richard T. Jameson