Directed by: Vincente Minnelli
Written by: Alan Jay Lerner
Starring: Gene Kelly, Leslie Caron, Oscar Levant, Georges Guétary, Nina Foch
It may be an overused phrase but when someone says, “they just don’t make movies like this anymore” all I can think about is An American in Paris and any other musical that had Gene Kelly. Whether it be from the pure choreography or the beautiful colorful sets, this film embodies the magic that Old Hollywood created and with it comes this experience.
Jerry Mulligan (Gene Kelly), an army veteran starts a life in Paris where he hopes to pursue a career in being an artist. In his experience, he meets Milo Roberts (Nina Foch), a woman that wants to help him in his career but there are some suspicions of infatuation. Jerry does not want any romantic relationship with her, especially when he meets the lovely Lise Bouvier (Leslie Caron), who continues to elude him. Jerry has to manage these relationships and his dream to be a painter in the city of lights.
The positives of this film include, of course, the choreography. Gene Kelly and Leslie Caron demonstrate their phenomenal skill in this film and every sequence where they dance together exudes pure magic in every single frame. It further shows that musicals are not made the same way anymore. Vincente Minnelli just allowed these two performers to own the camera and put together beautiful dancing sequences for them. No one can light up a screen quite like Gene Kelly and he shows once again why he must be considered one of the greatest entertainers in all of Hollywood history. Whether it be his charisma or how he glides across the screen, any audience member can expect a show and he delivers one in An American in Paris.
Additionally, the production design features beautiful artistry that captures the essence of France. The use of bright reds and strong hues make the whole film a lively affair that one can truly get lost in. It surely helps that the set design has individuals like Kelly and Caron to accentuate its beauty. It creates a landscape of having multiple artists at the top of their game contributing to something special.
While everything from the dancing to the design reaches peak level, the story falters a bit, especially when looking at the relationship between Jerry and Lise. In a heavy male-dominated Hollywood of its time, there are things that I have grown to excuse because of it being a different era. However, I find it incredibly difficult to laugh that the creators behind this story saw it apt to depict the relationship between Jerry and Lise as anything but a nuisance. Not only does she have to continually thwart his advances to her even when she shows no interest in him, but the way he wins her heart is through pure harassment. It makes it all the more obvious that a bunch of men got together and decided that this tactic would ever work on someone. I guess they really bought into that Gene Kelly charm. It surely does not age well in the slightest but the dance sequences of Jerry and Lise dancing together by the Seine, demonstrate a chemistry the writing could only dream of creating.
The rest of the story plays out in the way one would think with these musicals, but watching the film showed the cultural influence it had on future musicals. From the color scheme and the actual dance numbers, An American in Paris has left its mark in the world of musicals. How could it not when you have Gene Kelly in his prime with the landscape of Paris behind him? Anything as influential as this film earned its place as one of the great American films even with it having some questionable romances but it’s hard to name a film from the 1950s that was much different.
While it may not rank as my favorite Gene Kelly musical, An American in Paris deserves the praise it has accrued since its release because it has the undeniable magic of excellent artists collaborating together. Each number has such a strong burst of energy and it leaves you thinking how in the world these incredible dancers can accomplish the moves they pull off in each sequence. It further shows the magic of cinema and that we need more musicals because of the vibrancy and glee for life they exude.