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... more »'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.« less
One of the greatest film treasures from sound's early days
Robert Moore | Chicago, IL USA | 05/25/2003
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Years ago as a graduate student, I was ecstatic to see a faded, fuzzy, and torn copy of LE MILLION at one of the campus film societies. Nevertheless, I was immediately enchanted. Luckily, those who today want to see this masterpiece have this magnificently restored version by Criterion. No one who loves classic cinema will fail to be enchanted by this magical story about the hunt for a lost, winning lottery ticket.In 1931, the year this film was made, European cinema was just beginning to catch up with the technical achievements made in the United States in the late 1920s. The period from 1929 to the early 1930s was an extraordinary time, as the art struggled with perfecting the new ability to record soundtracks. For a brief period of time, the world of cinema was awash with a world of possibilities, and in Hollywood Ernst Lubitsch made perhaps the first lasting musical films in a string of productions (THE LOVE PARADE, MONTE CARLO, and THE SMILING LIEUTENANT by 1931, and later ONE HOUR WITH YOU and THE MERRY WIDOW) that borrowed heavily from the operetta, a form that tragically-based on the extraordinary success achieved by Lubitsch and later Clair and Mamoulian-failed to survive for long. LE MILLION was essentially an attempt to do in France what Ernst Lubitsch was doing so successfully in Hollywood. The transition was an easy one, especially given that Lubitsch, the European expatriate, was setting all of his films in Europe. Rene Clair, however, added many touches of his own. The humor he employs in the film is laced with a degree of slapstick that simply wasn't Lubitsch's style. This film is a romp through Paris, and romping wasn't Lubitsch's mode of travel. LE MILLION is working class, while Lubitsch focused primarily on the antics of the aristocracy, or with workers having to deal with the aristocracy. Also, while Clair of necessity worked primarily in the studio (the limitations of sound technology required it), he employs some exterior shots that were very unusual for the time.There is a magic and a delight in LE MILLION that simply cannot be captured in words. There is something sui generis about a truly great film, especially one that is great in only the way that a film can be great, in the use of camera to tell a story, to tell a joke, to invoke a sense of delight. Except for those unfortunate film viewers for whom no good film was ever made in black and white, for whom no good film can be subtitled, and for whom an "old" film means made before 1970, this is one of those filmed that will be loved and cherished by anyone who loves movies."
DON'T LET ITS AGE DISCOURAGE YOU, YOU'LL HAVE A BLAST!
Claude Bouchard Jr. | Frederick, MD | 08/03/2000
(5 out of 5 stars)
"When people think of black & white foreign films from the 20's, they inevitably imagine snoozers that are outrageously incomprehensible and bizarre. Though they're often right, this movie is here to prove them wrong. "Le Million" is one of a handful of musical comedies that I'd watch over and over. The plotline is simple: retrieve a lottery ticket from a jacket that was given away to a stranger. Sounds easy, right? Not if director Rene Clair has his way! He adds plot twists, mistaken identities, disloyal friends, goldigging sexpots, and some pretty funny slapstick. Get ready for the most entertaining 90 minutes you've spent in a long time. It's interesting to see how many of the actors still relied on silent film methods of acting (lots of facial expressions and body language), even though this is a full-fledged "talkie". And Annabella provides wonderful visual and aural beauty.The songs are corny beyond belief but, fortunately, they're few so it's bearable. The corniness doesn't make them bad, just hopelessly out of date. They do help the story along nicely though, and the new lyric translation helps a lot. Despite being fluent in French, I had trouble understanding some of the lyrics, probably due to early recording limitations which occasionally cause muffled sound during loud passages. But this is minor and only occurs during the songs. Criterion did a wonderful job with the restoration as a whole. The print is clear and bright, with only very small segments showing any wear. The dialog is easy to understand and is crisp.I did have some problems with the subtitles, however. There are a few sentences in which they are wildly inaccurate. And a few of the spoken "curse" words have been translated into much more vulgar English than necessary. If there are kids in the room, note that this results in an essentially PG-rated film. A DVD that's well worth the small investment. You'll own a piece of classic movie history, and it's tremendously fun to watch."
Charming, Moving, and Historically Important
Claude Bouchard Jr. | 09/21/1999
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Rene Clair's Le Million is the first sound picture to free the actors and the action from the tyranny of the sound booth, so necessary to early sound pictures. In Le Million, Clair used new, lighter cameras and sound equipment to film and record the action, which moves in and around buildings, down the streets and so forth in a fluid motion new to the screen of 1931.Beyond having an amusing plot, Le Million moves along briskly, ending with the classic chase so familiar to French cinema, a tradition which it helped to establish. In summary, an entertaining film today, and a technical masterpiece of its time, as important to sound pictures as Battleship Potemkin is to montage. A cinema milestone from one of the great directors in the history of film."
Le Million is one of the most beautiful films of all time.
Claude Bouchard Jr. | 06/19/1997
(5 out of 5 stars)
"The simple tale of a chase over a winning lottery ticket, reveals a humanism rarely found in cinema. Two stuck-up artists race to find the ticket, as they try to avoid their upset landlord, jealous lovers and the butcher. Lazare Meerson's sets are both dreamlike and realistic, revealing the qualities of "poetic realism," this genre is often defined as. Clair wanted to re-define the musical, without the fanfare of your typical big Hollywood "numbers," and brought the songs into the action of the film. It is also a commentary on the recent advent of sound, which Clair was no fan of. Sounds come and go and often don't fit, as his roots in Surrealism show. The opening shot alone, of Paris rooftops, beautifully designed by Meerson, is worth a dream or two"
Nice lighthearted musical comedy
Michael Silver | Mountain View, CA USA | 03/15/2001
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Criterion did a nice job with this 1931 musical comedy. The quality is very good considering its age. It is an important film historically, but also it's just good, clean, amusing fun. And we know it has a happy ending because everyone is celebrating in the beginning. :o)"