An American In Paris (1951)
So I’ve managed to get myself a little behind in these updates, and all of my incredible insights into An American in Paris have been steadily slipping out of memory for the last few weeks. I’ll simply have to satisfy myself here with a brief summary of some lingering thoughts and considerations.
Firstly, what an astounding difference it makes to watch a film in colour. With such astute attention to visual imagery, it seems wholly appropriate that An American In Paris be our first full-colour Best Picture winner since Gone With The Wind. It’s almost as if the Academy were biding their time and waiting for the perfect colour film to arrive to give this to, and in my opinion it was well worth the wait.
Vincent Minelli’s visual work is strong and engrossing, and Gene Kelly’s choreography demonstrates the mind-blowing capabilities of dance. Emotion features strongly in many of his finely choreographed pieces, such as the love dance on the riverside, but what I found more interesting still was the way that Kelly can use movement to delineate character. That we can tell from the way people move their bodies a person’s age, their relationship to others within a space, or in some cases even get a hint of their socio-economic background, is astounding. Kelly really pushes his cast to the limit here – I seriously wonder how long some of these performers bodies lasted before giving way to years of painkillers.
And of course, the incredible music. I often register the development of music across the course of the BP canon but, being such an ethereal form, I find that it’s presence often takes a backseat in writing about the movies. After all, the intention of music within film is normally to support the action, not override it. Not so in An American In Paris. The unsparingly luscious score is taken almost entirely from the work of George Gershwin, one of the most artistically and commercially successful composers of the 20th Century. And what an amazing journey his music takes us on. Check out Adam’s incredible piano solo for a prime example. Gershwin was a true virtuoso of the piano and orchestra. I love him.
An American In Paris culminates with a massive, mind-blowing dance over 15 minutes long that has to be seen to be believed. I didn’t think it could get any bigger than The Great Ziegfeld, but I think An American In Paris has done. Even though I am prone to struggle with musicals, this film is breathtaking in it’s combination of audaciousess and subtlety. This is the Hollywood musical at it’s complete and utter best.