Wednesday, January 7, 2015

239. An American in Paris (1951)

Running Time: 113 minutes
Directed By: Vincente Minnelli
Written By: Alan Jay Lerner
Main Cast: Gene Kelly, Leslie Caron, Oscar Levant, Georges Guetary, Nina Foch
Click here to view the trailer


I DID manage to watch three movies yesterday, but obviously didn't make it back for the third review. So here I am now, to fill you in on my third feature from Tuesday's binge. All in all, I'd call yesterday a disappointment at the movies, with nothing blowing me away, but An American in Paris easily being the best of the lot.

The film, unsurprisingly, takes place in Paris and stars Gene Kelly as a starving artist named Jerry Mulligan. Jerry lives in a tinier than tiny apartment and considers a concert pianist who lives upstairs his best pal. The concert pianist is Adam Cook, also starving for his passion, unable to get a job, left to daydream about what fame & fortune might be like. One day Jerry meets the very wealthy Milo Roberts (Foch), who offers to buy two of his paintings and later, invites him to her place for a social gathering. Jerry accepts, but when he arrives finds that the social gathering only consists of two - him and Milo. Long story short, she's attracted to more than just his paintings and wants to build him up into a famous painter, by organizing exhibitions and whatnot. Meanwhile, Jerry can't help but swoon over the young, but gorgeous Lise Bouvier (Caron), a perfume counter girl who, at first, wants nothing to do with the very forward Mulligan. However, Jerry makes her laugh and eventually she caves, agreeing to a late night date with Jerry. Why late night? Because Jerry's lunches are scheduled daily with Milo and because Lise's dinner plans are scheduled nightly with her boyfriend and acquaintance of Jerry, Henri Baurel (Guetary). Jerry and Lise go on to meet nightly, eventually falling in love, but unable to break the news to their other lovers, who are promising them fame & fortune - Milo offering to take Jerry to America to begin showing his paintings and Henri, a famous singer & dancer, offering to marry Lise and put an end to her perfume counter days.


Definitely not Best Picture worthy, but not terrible either by any stretch. I'm a sucker for Gene Kelly and am of the opinion that his tap dancing feet are a form of hypnosis in some countries. Watching him tap dance through the streets, serenading little kids was one of the high points of the picture, not to mention his dance with Leslie Caron on the banks of the River Seine, during their first date. What WAS NOT a high point, was the eighteen minute ballet that concluded the film, which was annoyingly long, at a point when I was ready to be done with the predictable story. I think by then we all knew that Lise would come running back into Jerry's arms, so by then we were just prolonging the inevitable. Speaking of Caron, I only called her gorgeous in the plot synopsis, because in the movie she was considered gorgeous by all. However, is it just me or is she quite the opposite? I mean, what's the appeal with this girl? I'm not going to get into name calling, but I found her quite resistable and it was almost a joke to watch Kelly and Guetary vie for her affections. Come to think of it, I didn't care for her in Gigi either, making her one of the most detestable actresses I've encountered from THE BOOK.

Overall the film made the time pass fairly easily, but it wasn't because of anything blow away. It was the exact definition of a slightly above average picture and considering it beat out A Place in the Sun for Best Picture is more of a joke than Caron being considered the film's object of desire. The cinematography and choreography were both brilliant, but the story itself was quite mundane, predictable and uninteresting. Seriously though, the cinematography is outstanding, enough to make you pity the color blind, with eye popping yellows, greens, purples...oh, who am I kidding - every color of the rainbow is represented to eye popping perfection. You can really tell that unlike myself, Minnelli was just infatuated with Caron, framing her in beautiful color, early on when Henri is describing her to Oscar, the only time in the film where she looks halfway decent. Also, dig that scene where Kelly steps aside and lets Georges Guetary strut his stuff in the number "I'll Build a Stairway to Paradise" - one of my favorites from the film. Other than that, the songs are pretty forgettable to be honest, with nothing really sticking in my memory, even this morning, having just finished it less than twelve hours ago. I must say though, these old musicals have been fairly good to me and this one only helped to remind me of others I've passed in my journey to 1001 watched. It got me to thinking that someone needs to make a modern musical, with original songs, but stage it so that it looks classic. Get a bunch of clean cut, good looking actors together (honestly, I can't think of anyone in modern Hollywood, so you might have to recruit some new, young talent), force them to don cheesy smiles and top notch dance moves and put on a show. Could Hollywood get away with something like this today? If given the right director, choreographer could it produce a profit? I really don't know, but seeing as how Hollywood produces handful upon handful of bombs per year, I can't see the harm in giving it a shot and perhaps reinvigorating the pretty much dead genre that is musical. Just a thought...

RATING: 6/10  This has to be one of the big letdowns among Best Picture winners, as both A Place in the Sun and A Streetcar Named Desire should have won out over this and have both stood the test of time much better than An American in Paris.


January 7, 2015  11:27am


  1. "Meh", sums it up pretty good. Since I am not much into the dancing that leaves... well, not much.
    Funny, I had the same thoughts about Leslie Caron. I feel almost sorry for her that she was made up to be this gorgeous girl. Sweet, yes, gorgeous, nah.

    1. I need to go search a picture of Caron as an older woman and see if her looks improved any. God, I sound so cruel, but I just didn't see her as an object of anyone's desires or even a movie star for that matter. Thanks, as always, Mr. Sorensen.

  2. Fair enough..
    We all know I'm not keen on musicals, but I'm big enough to realise that is only a matter of personal taste.
    As big, bright, colourful, well produced MGM musicals go, this must be a very good example.. and thus deserving of it's place. I do not recall getting all uptight morally outraged at any offensive stereotype portrayals as I did in Gigi or 7 brides, so I will just let it pass on by, only noticing that.. So this beat Street Car for the Oscar did it? Mmm..Another case for the charge that Oscars can often get it wrong...

    1. I noticed a lot of belly aching about this one winning, as I was checking it off at various sites (IMDB, ICheck). Definitely an unworthy winner.

  3. I really like this movie, but I agree it has a few problems. Caron's characters are just kinda there, from the two films I have seen her in. Kelly is awesome as usually. I agree A Place In The Sun is a better film, but not Streetcar Named Desire. That movie is way over acted and over-rated in my book.

    1. I used to despise Streetcar, but every time I saw it (don't ask me why I watched it so much if I didn't like it) I found more reasons to like it, until my most recent watch (for THE BOOK) was really positive.


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