An American in Paris (1951)

<strong class="MovieTitle">An American in Paris</strong> (1951)

(On DVD, January 2018) I’ll be the first to admit that classic musicals aren’t for everyone, but there’s a fun quality to An American in Paris that makes it irresistible. From the pleasantly idealized portrait of post-war Paris to witty musical numbers that acknowledge their own nature as musical numbers, this is a fun, not particularly deep but rather enjoyable musical. It won an Oscar, but it feels considerably less substantial than you’d expect—just a few Americans having fun in a glossy version of Paris, wooing girls and getting into all sorts of dance numbers. Gene Kelly is fantastic in the lead role (he also brought his distinctive touch to the film’s choreography, including the spectacular but rather long standout ballet sequence at the end of the film), with Leslie Caron simply being adorable as the romantic ideal, and Oscar Levant as comic relief. While An American in Paris is notable for its extended ballet sequence that makes much of the film’s last half-hour, I found it long and disconnected from the rest of the film—of course, that’s the point. And it’s impressive to see Kelly make ballet not only accessible to movie audiences, but actually fun. Still, I like other moments of the film better—The “black-and-white” party sequence is visually memorable, and the sequence in which Henri first describes the heroine of the film is a delight. I can never say enough good things about Kelly, the colours are bright, the atmosphere is delightful and as an example of the height of MGM’s musical comedy era it’s about as good a representation of the form as possible—I like Singin’ in the Rain a lot more, but there’s a difference between a solid example of the form and something that completely transcends it. The exemplar should not feel slighted for not being exceptional.

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