Le Million Reviews
In Le Million, Rene Clair, one of the cinema's great directors and great pioneers, created a gem of light comedy which for all its lightness is a groundbreaking and technically brilliant film which clearly influenced subsequent film-makers such as the Marx Brothers, Lubitsch, and Mamoulian. The plot, a witty story of a poor artist who wins a huge lottery jackpot but has to search frantically all over town for the missing ticket, is basically just a device to support a series of wonderfully witty comic scenes enacted in a dream world of the director's imagination.
One of the most impressive things about this film is that, though it is set in the middle of Paris and includes nothing actually impossible, it achieves a sustained and involving fairy-tale/fantasy atmosphere, in which it seems quite natural that people sing as much as they talk, or that a tussle over a stolen jacket should take on the form of a football game. Another memorable element is that Le Million includes what may be the funniest opera ever put on film (O that blonde-braided soprano! "I laugh, ha! ha!") Also a delight is the casting: Clair has assembled a group of amazing, sharply different character actors, each of them illustrating with deadly satiric accuracy a bourgeois French "type," so that the film seems like a set of Daumier prints come to life.
The hilarity takes a little while to get rolling, and I found the characters not as emotionally engaging as they can be even in a light comedy (as they are, for instance, in many Lubitsch films.) For these reasons I refrained from giving it the highest rating. But these minor cavils shouldn't distract from an enthusiastic recommendation.
Should you see it? By all means. Highly recommended whether you want a classic and influential work of cinema or just a fun comedy. The Criterion DVD is good quality, though the print could have been better, but I assume they used the best available.
"Le Million" is a delightful and funny operetta that includes references to ballet, rugby and an opera about bohemians that mirrors Michel's life. Made at the advent of sound pictures, the movie also harkens back to the golden age of silent comedies with its exquisite early double chase. In fact, the movie is one long chase, with mistaken identities rampant. Pleasantly enough, director Rene Clair shows no signs of having trouble adjusting to the new format, just as a major theme is the failure to communicate. My only serious problem is how long it takes for everybody to key in on the jacket which admittedly might just be a consequence of maybe having seen that same gag many times from more recent films.
Funny to see the French imitate the uniquely American form of the musical. Of course, unlike MGM, they do it by rewarding a 'bohemian' a million dollars.
What can one say? Well acted. Beautifully written. Even the songs are outstanding.
Humor. Suspense. Excitement. ...even love. This was a home run! Live the reviewer said, a sheer delight.
Toward the end, amidst the fury for the jacket, it turns into the standard silent screwball, which was very well received.
I have to be honest...there are people who are amused by people making stupid mistakes in movies. I get furious. She gave his jacket away that had his lottery ticket!?!! If I was the author, I would have had him shoot her in the face, & end the movie at that moment. But that's probably why I'm not making movies.
Loved the goofy use of songs -- back then, cinema hadn't lost its innocence yet. Also loved the irregular angles of the apartment building, and the bit where the soundtrack of an onscreen group scuffle is thrown out and replaced with the ambient roar of a football game.