Sunday, February 7, 2016

Oscar Movie Review: "An American in Paris" (1951)

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Movie"An American in Paris"
Year Nominated: 1952
Director: Vincente Minnelli
Rating: G
Running Time: 1 hour, 53 minutes
Did It Win?: Yes.

American painter Jerry Mulligan (Gene Kelly) is living in Paris. A wealthy heiress named Milo Roberts (Nina Foch) take interest in his art and this gives him recognition and art world connections for the first time. However, he falls in love with a young sales girl named Lise (Leslie Caron), who unbeknownst to him is in an existing relationship with his friend, a French actor named Henri Baurel (Georges Guetary). 

We probably say this a lot on this blog, but it's often very difficult to go back through cinematic history and watch these older films without a modern perspective. Sometimes, our eyes and brains are too attuned to our new, more contemporary way of thinking to watch these older movies and come out on the positive side of them. Also, the level of sexism in these older movies is a bit distracting, super outdated, and too hard to ignore. "An American in Paris" stars Gene Kelly as Jerry Mulligan, an American painter living in Paris. It is a musical romantic comedy and took home the Academy Award for Best Picture, along with five other Oscars from a total of eight nominations. Despite the acclaim and the accolades, unfortunately, this movie doesn't hold up very all that well. Sure, it does have some funny moments and a couple of good, memorable song and dance numbers, but overall, it's not the best or most intriguing story ever made.

When you strip away the musical and dance elements, it's really just a formulaic romance. It's about a guy who, in many ways, uses one woman's affection for him to gain connections for his art while he pursues a 19 year-old shop clerk named Lise, played by dancer Leslie Caron, who is dating a friend of his named Henri, played by Georges Guetary. The situation between Henri and Lise is a little odd considering Henri essentially raised Lise from a little girl and then fell in love with her when she became of age, so it's weird when Georges Guetary and Leslie Caron have more chemistry than Leslie Caron and Gene Kelly, the couple we're supposed to be rooting for to wind up together. The narrative is extremely thin and every major moment is rather contrived, but then again, the shift in what moviegoers want has changed a bit since 1951. Filmmakers fill in gaps in story with a song or a dance, including a nearly 20 minute dance sequence at the very end of the film which, at the time, was somewhat of a revolutionary experience in modern cinema. Unfortunately, the huge break in the already mediocre story becomes a little tedious to say the least. The best part of this movie for us was actually Oscar Levant, who plays pianist Adam Cook, who offers up some good comedic moments throughout the film. Cook is almost always around, offering up his finely tuned piano for Jerry whenever the mood strikes him to sing a song, which is quite often. He should be lucky he had a pianist living next door, huh? All in all, "An American in Paris" is not the best Best Picture winner, but it's certainly not the worst. Some of the songs and dance numbers here have become culturally iconic, we just wish we could say the same about the entire picture.

My Rating: 6.5/10
BigJ's Rating: 6.5/10
IMDB's Rating: 7.2/10
Rotten Tomatoes Rating: 95%
Do we recommend this movie: Sure, why not?
One year ago, we were watching: "Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Rings"

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