Sunday, April 5, 2009

An American in Paris

In modern popular dance, namely in movies, it always appears that dancers make things look harder than they actually are. This is why I am reviewing An American in Paris starring Gene Kelly and Leslie Caron.

Gene Kelly plays Jerry, an ex-pat painter, trying to sell his art on the streets of Paris. A chance meeting with a socialite brings him the opportunity to have his own show. This comes into jeopardy, however, when he meets a young French girl played by Leslie Caron. As Lise, Caron is the most singular female co-star I have seen with Kelly. During the film I actually know what she wants and why. Another Gene Kelly film of the same time, Brigadoon, pairs him a love interest that is just meant to be pretty and sing about love. I would rather care about both sides of the romance.

Now, let me address the dancing. Dance sequences were fluid and seemingly off the cuff. It all had meaning and none of it was dancing just for the sake of. The last portion of the film is predominantly a 20 minute, non dialogue, ballet. People have bashed it for being arty and pretentious. I would like to say this was made in 1951, the imagery and style were far ahead of its time, and it seems as if people forget exactly where this is in cinema history. It wasn’t made during a period when chances of an artistic nature were commonly taken. If anything it is more courageous than pretentious.

As for how this film could have been improved…… perhaps viewing the film without the last two minutes would make the ending a bit more gracious. If you enjoy painterly backdrops, romantic dance numbers, and don’t mind a foray into ballet please seek this one out.

Paige Turner

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