An American in Paris (Two-Disc Special Edition) 
DVD Music-Concert
Written by Abbie Bernstein   
Tuesday, 16 September 2008

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With songs by George and Ira Gershwin and Gene Kelly’s rapturous dancing and choreography, movie musicals just don’t come much more exuberant or gorgeous than ‘An American in Paris.’ Winner of the 1951 Best Picture Oscar (and five other Academy Awards), ‘American’ stands the test of time, largely because while artists of similar stature in their own right have come along since, there’s no one really like the Gershwins or Kelly. This film provides the real articles at the top of their form.

Kelly plays the title role, Jerry Mulligan, an ex-G.I. who after WWII has stayed on in Paris to paint. He’s content with his penniless, bohemian existence until, in quick succession, he is taken under the wing of a smitten, rich American patroness (Nina Foch) and falls for local shopgirl Lise (Leslie Caron) who, unbeknownst to Jerry, is engaged to his pal.

The script by Alan J. Lerner has a slight plot but the dialogue is ever-clever and it beautifully accommodates the Gershwins’ ecstatic music. Director Vincente Minelli plays joyously with scene transitions and is supremely in sync with Kelly’s vision of the many dance numbers. A lot has been written about Kelly’s limber, athletic grace. What he does here seems almost physically impossible, yet he performs the most complicated routines with an expression that suggests Jerry’s legs are doing all the talking for him -- thecharacter is so at ease in motion that he’s more effortlessly articulate dancing than talking. As for Caron, all of 17 when she played Lise, there seems to be nothing that is beyond the ability of her lithe form from her first showcase appearance in Chapter 5, when she embodies a variety of aspects of the same character. Like Kelly, she is in perfect command of her body and her timing, able to express enormous innocence while endowing her steps with such sensuality that it’s startling to remember this film was made when Hollywood censorship was in full force.

I am pleased to report that the video quality of this transfer is much improved upon from the 1999 release.  The colors, hues, and black levels all remain accurate.  This transfer is much cleaner than its predecessor.  The very noticeable scratches and dirt present before are all but gone in this release.  While the quality is not as great as the 50th Anniversary release of "Gigi" on DVD, this disc does hold up well for a 1951 film.

The audio, sadly, does not hold up well.  Originally released in mono, the soundtrack has been the same throughout all the releases of this film on DVD.  The track is brittle.  The musical is not as emotionally powerful in mono.  The separation between vocals and musical instruments is difficult to discern.

While this disc is an upgrade in quality or its predecessors, it is still lacking.  However, it is probably the best it is going to get with the age of the film and original source material.

This two-disc release of "An American in Paris" is filled with bonus features.  The first disc contains the film and four other features.  The first bonus feature is a combination audio commentary.  It is hosted by Patricia Ward Kelly and features interviews, rare ones, by: Gene Kelly, Vincente Minnelli, Arthur Freed, Alan Jay Lerner, Johnny Green, Saul Chaplin, Michael Feinstein, Preston Ames, Irene Sharaff, Leslie Caron and Nina Foch.  The next features are vintage shorts, "FitzPatrick Traveltalks" and "Paris on Parade."  The last two features are a cartoon, "Symphony in Slang" and a Theatrical Trailer.

The second disc contains a new documentary, "'S Wonderful: The Making of 'An American in Paris.'"  This features 10 new documentaries, inclusing ones by Leslie Caron and Nina Foch.  "American Masters Career Profile – Gene Kelly: Anatomy of a Dancer" is a special feature about Gene Kelly's dance steps.  The next feature is, "Love Walked In" song sequence outtakes.  Lastly there are some audio-only bonus features.  These include song outtakes and radio promos by some of the actors.

"An American in Paris" is another musical classic.  The presentation of the film on this disc is probably about as good as the quality is going to get.  The special features will be great for those truly interested in the film's history.
Studio Warner Bros. Home Video
MPAA Rating Not Rated
Starring Gene Kelly, Leslie Caron, Oscar Levant, Georges Guetary, Nina Foch
Director Vincente Minnelli
Film Release Year 1951
Release Year 2008
Aspect Ratio 1.33:1
Running Time 1 hr. 54 mins.
Sound Formats English Dolby Digital 1.0
Subtitles English • French
Special Features Audio commentary hosted by Patricia Ward Kelly and features interviews by: Gene Kelly, Vincente Minnelli, Arthur Freed, Alan Jay Lerner, Johnny Green, Saul Chaplin, Michael Feinstein, Preston Ames, Irene Sharaff, Leslie Caron and Nina Foch; vintage shorts "FitzPatrick Traveltalks" and "Paris on Parade"; cartoon "Symphony in Slang"; Theatrical Trailer; documentary "'S Wonderful: The Making of 'An American in Paris'"; "American Masters Career Profile – Gene Kelly: Anatomy of a Dancer"; "Love Walked In" song sequence outtakes; Audio-only song outtakes and radio promos by some of the actors.
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Reviewer Abbie Bernstein

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