Le Million

983. LE MILLION (1931-France). Directed by RENE CLAIR. A lighthearted, fast-moving musical comedy by one Of the screen’s great mastersÑtruly unlike any other musical, or indeed any other movie, you have ever seen. Two penniless artists, facing an army Of angry creditors, become millionaires by winning a lottery. But the ticket is in a jacket, which has been stolen, then sold lo a monstrous opera singer about to leave for AmerÂica. The artistsÑjoined by their girlfriends, the police, the creditors, and a gang Of thievesÑdesperately pursue the jacket all over Paris, but it is always a step ahead Of them. The characters race relentlessly along streets, corridors, staircases and roOftops, all set in a highly stylized, fantasy-like world. Much Of the film evokes the spirit Of the best and most frenetic silent comedy chases. But Clair was also a pioneer in the creative use Of sound. Determined to avoid the talky, stagy dramas that dominated the screen, he emphasized movement and spontaneity, and performed audacious experiments with the soundtrack. Dialogue is Often avoided completely, as characters express themselves through charming songs; Off screen choruses sing witty comments on the acÂtion; musical numbers bridge one scene (and location) and the next; images and sounds are combined in unÂusual, sometimes startling ways. The climactic wild scramble after the jacket in an opera house resembles a football game, and the accompanying soundtrack consists Of a referee’s whistle, crowd noises, and the thud Of a ball! This refreshingly original film is a milestone Of early sound cinema, but it also holds up splendidly today as an entertaining, exhilarating combination Of comedy, fantasy, music and romance. In French with English subtitles. 81 minutes. Musical-Comedy