Wednesday, February 22, 2012

30 Days of Oscar Day 28: An American in Paris

Movie: An American in Paris
Year: 1952
Nominations:  Best Picture, Best Director - Vincent Minnelli, Art Direction, Cinematography (Color), Costume, Score of a Musical, Writing, Editing

Wins/Snubs: It won Best Picture over A Streetcar Named Desire (which took most of the acting awards) and A Place in the Sun (which won Best Director for George Stevens) so I'm actually okay with it as they're both really depressing.  Paris won Cinematography for color, and A Place in the Sun won for Black and White, as well as for Editing and Score of a drama.  Except for Bogart winning Best Actor for The African Queen, these three movies won all of the rest.  

I can't believe I'd never seen this as I really enjoy musicals.  In many other years it wouldn't have been the winner, but it split with 2 other films and took all the awards.  It stars Gene Kelly as the titular American, Jerry Mulligan, an artist trying to make a go of it in Paris.  He meets a rich patroness, Milo (Nina Foch) while he's selling his paintings.  She mostly gets a thrill dating bohemian artist.  One night when they're out with her friends, he sees Lisa (Leslie Caron) and falls in love.  Of course that pisses of his patroness Milo, and Lisa isn't all that interested. However, Jerry is a persistent stalker and and she agrees to go out with him.  Because it's a musical, there has to be a bigger complication. Jerry's friend Adam (a pianist) is friend's with famous actor Henri Baurel (Georges Guetary) who is engaged to a lovely woman named Lisa.  
The music and lyrics are done by George and Ira Gershwin, so there are a lot of recognizable songs - "I've got rhythm (Who could ask for anything more", "S'wonderful", plus many in the background/score that you'll recognize, "Strike up the band".  There are also two really extended dance numbers - one of Jerry fantasizing about being with Lisa, and another of Henri describing how terrific Lisa is.  Leslie Caron (all of 19 at the time) is an exceptional dancer - ballet, jazz, etc. and she really gets a lot of screen time to showcase this talent - however, I'm not a fan of dance (particularly for 10 minutes at a time) so I lost a bit there.  Gene Kelly is remarkably compelling though - he's fun, does a great tap dance with his neighbor kids, falls in love at the drop of a hat, and can sing too.  He and Lisa don't really have much chemistry, but man can they dance and the beautiful setting of Paris is vibrant and colorful and full of hope.  


Ryan McNeil said...

Finally you return to a classic I've seen!

This is a particular brand of musical that I tell modern viewers to be a bit wary of. It's very "Old Hollywood" - glossy, happy, and closer to a theatrical production than a script and story film. A musical for people who love musicals.

Good on ya for giving it a look and focusing on what it does I vote you follow it up with a re-watch of RATATOUILLE.

The Curmudgeon said...

This is one of my FAVORITE MOVIES OF ALL TIME - I wanted to be Gene Kelly when I was a kid. (Foreshadowing, anyone?) They showed it at the Bryant Park Festival on the big screen maybe five years ago and I was so excited I couldn't sleep the night before.