Director: René Clair
In the last year we have been fortunate enough in Melbourne to see two of the three classic films made by Rene Clair in the early 30's. Sous le Toits de Paris and A Nous la Liberte. Now we have the third and perhaps the most gay and fantastic, Le Million, which swept Clair and his films to the pinnacle of international success in those early days of sound.
Against a background of infinitely human characters is set a story that is pure comedy nightmare. One of a pair of young lovers besieged by duns and creditors wins a million francs in a lottery hut leaves the ticket in the pocket of a worn coat which his girl friend gives to an old rascal. He, in turn, sells the coat to an old clothes dealer who is actually the head of a gang of thieves and who in turn sells it to an opera singer looking for a realistic garment for some operatic role.
Everyone joins in the chase which reaches an hilarious climax at the opera, where, as the tenor insists on wearing the coat during the performance, everyone in pursuit of it, including the thieves, snatch up any available disguise and rush on stage as chorus. One wonders how much the Marx Brothers were inspired by this crazy sequence.
The last section of the film contains the famous scene wherein Clair demonstrates his most adept and witty use of sound. "Suddenly the scrimmage takes on the appearance of a football serum and as the coat is thrown from hand to hand there is the thud of a football in the sound track. A whistle is blown, and the characters pack down together and shove!"