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Le Million


By Bret McCabe | Posted 2/2/2005

René Clair invented the charmingly picturesque musical with only his second sound film, Le Million. And since this whimsical confection dates from the 1931 early, early days of talkies, sound is both a unifying thread and disorienting presence throughout. Le Millon follows the fabulously convoluted search for a coat belonging to artist Michel (René Lefèvre) after his girlfriend Beatrice (beauty of French silent movies Annabella) gives it to a thief, who in turns sells the coat to an opera singer. In the pocket of this coat is a winning lottery ticket for one million Francs. That is pretty much the entire plot, but Clair matches his images with a dazzling series of songs and uses of sound as a cinematic device—the crowd noises of a soccer match are paired with the jacket bouncing through a crowd, an unseen chorus of singers sometimes comment on the daylong jacket search as if a Greek play, a pair of portly opera singers voice the sweet-nothing thoughts of Michel and Beatrice as they hide in a theater—that keeps Le Million a delightful airy and almost fantasia entertainment.

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