Starting in 1929 and ending in mid-1933, an explosive developmental time when film's transition from silence to sound required directors' artistic invention at an unprecedented rate, Rouben Mamoulian made five of the most trope-filled movies in Hollywood history. These churning fermentations from this Soviet émigré, a completely different flavour brewed up in each of the five batches, represented his visionary enravishment with the possibilities of roiling together all at once the most intoxicating aspects of film movement--dancing, acting, camera tracking, montage, double-exposures, optically printed wipes and dissolves--with music, singing, subjective sound, acoustic perspective, deep-focus décors and a tipsy magician's bag of lighting tricks. (Colour would come later.) Mamoulian's films surprise the palate with a tasteful tumult of novelty, a riotous growth-spurt in the newborn filmic syntax, an effervescent revolution of authorial sophistication!! The fact that some of his vocabulary has been subsequently forgotten, or was never learned by rivals in the first place, keeps Mamoulian-viewing as startling and fresh as it ever was, and makes us feel as though we are today speaking with less expressive cameras than we could be.
[on Love Me Tonight (1932):]
Even the prose scenes are alive with the bounce and rhythm of unheard music.
And the filmic innovation comes at the viewer in waves, but also in the most
controlled and sophisticated way--everything about the movie is so, well,
* * *
The most poetically powerful sequence in all Mamoulian is here, involving musical contagion and the song "Isn't It Romantic." Lowly tailor [Maurice] Chevalier sings the song to a customer who hums the catchy tune as he leaves the shop and, in refusing a cab ride, passes the melody onto the hack, who whistles it to a fare, who in turn takes a train ride and sings the song to a bunch of French soldiers, who later turn the melody into a robust marching song while out on field duty, where the song is picked up by a nearby Gypsy boy who, later that night at a bonfire, plays it on his violin, sending its strains toward a nearby castle, where Jeanette MacDonald pines. Hearing this irresistible melody, MacDonald is compelled to respond in song--the same song! A melodic epidemic! In this way, the film's two eventual lovers are introduced to the viewer, and linked together through the mystical powers of music--as in spring time, there is something in the air!!!
--Guy Maddin, "Mamoo, the Tropist!: Rouben Mamoulian's Paramount Years" in CinemaScope, Spring 2004, Issue 18, p. 15