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An American in Paris Print E-mail
Tuesday, 27 April 1999

An American In Paris

starring: Gene Kelly, Leslie Caron, Oscar Levant, Nina Foch
release year: 1951
film rating: Four-and-a-Half Stars
reviewed by: Abbie Bernstein

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.

The DVD transfer of ‘An American in Paris’ has its pluses and minuses. The menu that greets us at the beginning of the disk is charming, with a computer-animated Kelly doing a dance step for us as we browse. The brilliant Technicolor hues of the original film are all here, and the contrast in Chapter 29’s black-and-white ball sequence is pleasingly sharp. An eight-page booklet that comes with the packaging helpfully points out details in certain scenes, allowing us to reference what we’re watching as it’s onscreen rather than forcing us to flip between the movie and supplemental notes on the disk.

There are a few scratches on the print, with a particularly odd frame flash during Chapter 9’s "I Got Rhythm." Although the soundtrack is in mono (a weird choice for a musical), the songs come through powerfully, though on occasion the dialogue levels are lower than desirable.

It is to be hoped that M-G-M eventually releases a stereo ‘An American in Paris’ DVD. Until that time, this disk is well worth having.

more details
sound format:
English Dolby Digital Mono; French Dolby Digital Mono
aspect ratio(s):
special features: Theatrical Trailer; French Language Track; English Closed-Captioning; French Subtitles; Informational Booklet; Chapter Search
comments: email us here...
reference system
DVD player: Kenwood DV-403
receiver: Kenwood VR-407
main speakers: Paradigm Atom
center speaker: Paradigm CC-170
rear speakers: Paradigm ADP-70
subwoofer: Paradigm PDR-10
monitor: 27-inch Toshiba

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