(For those following at home, Lisa is attempting to clean out her DVR by watching and reviewing 38 films by this Friday. Will she make it? Keep following the site to find out!)
I can’t believe it took me this long to see the Oscar-winning 1951 film, An American In Paris. Seriously, I love dancing. I love Paris. I love Gene Kelly. Though this film was made decades before I was born, it still feels like it was literally made for me. And yet, until last night, I had never seen it. Thank God for TCM (and thank God for the DVR that I used to record the movie when it aired on TCM).
Gene Kelly plays Jerry Mulligan, an American veteran of World War II who, now that he is out of the army, is making his living as a painter and living in Paris. (The real Paris is only seen in a few establishing shots. Most of the film takes place on sets that were clearly designed to look more theatrical than realistic. This is the Paris of our most romantic fantasies.) Jerry’s roommate is Adam (Oscar Levant), a pianist who fantasizes about playing before a huge audience.
When the movie begins, Jerry gets his first patron, the wealthy and lonely Milo Roberts (Nina Foch). Though Milo is in love with Jerry, Jerry falls in love with an innocent French girl, Lise Bouvier (Leslie Caron). Although Lise falls in love with Jerry, she feels obligated to marry French singer Henri (Georges Guetary) because Henri helped to keep her safe during the Nazi occupation. And, of course, Henri is friends with Adam who is the roommate of Jerry who is in love with Lise who is engaged…
It sounds a lot more complicated than it actually is. If anything the plot of An American In Paris is too simple. (Just compare An American In Paris to Singin’ In The Rain.) But ultimately, An American In Paris is not about the story. It’s about George Gershwin’s music and Gene Kelly’s dancing. It’s a triumph of pure style. It was said that Fred Astaire made love through dancing and that’s even more true of Gene Kelly, who is literally a force of masculine nature in this film. So impressive was his choreography that it received a special, noncompetitive Oscar.
Check some of this out:
It all eventually ends with the incredible 17-minute The American In Paris Ballet, which sees Gene Kelly and Leslie Carson dancing through a series of sets that were modeled on Impressionist paintings. It’s one of those great movie moments that simply has to be seen.
How impressed were the members of the Academy with An American In Paris? They were impressed enough to name it the best film of 1951. I don’t know if I would go that far because I’ve seen both A Streetcar Named Desire and A Place In The Sun. (And An American In Paris‘s victory is considered to be one of the biggest upsets in Oscar history.) But, with all that said, An American In Paris is still an incredibly enjoyable film to watch.
It is pure joy.