Noted Films

film 2 of 5

An American in Paris

Film Review by Dean Duncan Apr 10, 2015

Musicals are preposterous by nature, but this one is really preposterous. Not in a people-don’t-really-sing-out-loud-like-that way, but because people don’t think or act this way either, stylized setting or not. Maybe it’s the way that they inappropriately assign some of these tunes (that French cabaret singer; “I got!”). Something’s just off there. The romance is an even bigger problem, all unconvincing and insubstantial and even kind of unattractive. Is it that their combining of Continental sophistication and American Puritanism only brings out the worst of both? The results are smugly sanctimonious and immoral at the same time! Also, as beautiful as Gene Kelly is, he can be so vain and ridiculous! And, if you’ll excuse my saying so, a really limited singer. On the other hand, he is some specimen, and an utterly scintillating dancer.  Add the contributions of director Vincente Minelli—colour, texture, design, that Citizen Kane-like sequence in which Mlle. Caron is introduced, and the American in Paris ballet en toto—and you’ve still got an assembly to be reckoned with.

That admitted, that being freely and happily acknowledged, the ending of this film is still really dumb. So, too, the multi-Oscar Levant sequence, though this dumbness is quite pleasant. Note also the musico-documentary value of this sequence—those are his real fingers, really playing those notes. Plus, the shot where he drinks his coffee with that cigarette still in his mouth is funny.