Dr. Vanessa Theme Ament

DAILY DOSE OF DELIGHT #12 (From AN AMERICAN IN PARIS)

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1.  The ballet scene is brilliant - the vivid colors and "dream-like" beautiful movements of Leslie Caron could not be duplicated by any other performer, in my opinion.  She is perfection.  I remember seeing this scene for the first time when I was very young and being completely in awe of her talent.

2.  Sorry but I can't help loving Gene Kelly no matter what "role" he is trying to play.  His voice, his step, his mannerism just exude happiness.  Never comes off as rude or crass.

 

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As a child, I found the imaginary ballet scene in An American in Paris to be a bit jarring. I just didn't understand the transition: Jerry looked at the paper on the floor and then found his way inside to a world filled with painting styles and Gershwin. But back then, I was fascinated only with words and music, not film and dance. I think every film is stylized to a certain extent, whether you have each step choreographed in a baseball game, the costumes defining relationships and the scene, or the colors carefully offsetting each other. That's all basically unrealistic; life isn't like that. For An American in Paris, I think the build up to the last ballet scene is constant, with every song a peak of romanticized, unrealistic, style - whether 'our love is here to stay' on the "seine" or the 'stairway to paradise' in the typically overdone Parisian show. All that helps make An American in Paris an amazingly stunning film.

As for Jerry, he's abrupt with the third year student - so we learn he's not patient, or tentative in how he deals with other people. His style is set, he knows who he is, and his philosophy is purchase or move on. He's not diplomatic in how he deals with things he doesn't like - definitely rough around the edges - but he's frank, open, his explanation makes sense, and he has a likable friendly face, which makes up for a lot. (Gene Kelly - who wouldn't like that face?)

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1. The ending ballet is so good, with so much going on, I think it could go either way. But since it's a musical, I think it makes more sense to have it stylized throughout the whole film. It is Paris after all, and while it might get mundane if you live there, as a visitor (whether in person or watching media from home) it holds a certain splendor. I went there years ago, and my memories are still positive and bright, and make me want to visit again. Even just hearing Paris makes me think of beautiful things, including this film. 

2. Gene Kelly is just so darn likable in virtually every movie he's in, even when he's supposed to be kind of a jerk. It's his kind, handsome face and non-threatening, smooth voice. Being such an incredible dancer also makes his movements beautiful, no matter how small they are. He's a person you just want to watch, no matter what they're doing or saying. I think that's a huge part of why he always gets to be the romantic lead, and makes other men pale in comparison when they share the screen. 

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1. The stylized scene in An American in Paris is Jerry daydreaming that he is in his drawing that he just sketched. So if it’s a dream, thought, something being read, something be watched it can be the only thing stylized and not seem out of place. Cause it’s giving you insight into someone’s mind, which wouldn’t appear the same as reality. 

2. Jerry Mulligan seems to be an honest guy. When the student came up to critique his work he was short with her. But when Milo asks him if he was going to treat her the same he explains that he’s had other art students trying to use their knowledge on his paintings, but they aren’t buying so he don’t care. Plus from the conversation with Milo you learn he hasn’t sold any paintings, so he’s poor. Which also makes you a little sorry for him. And if any of us was in his shoes we probably would have done the same thing.

 

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Gene Kelly has a fantasy ballet sequence in other films besides American in Paris, for instance The Pirate and Singing in the Rain.  Apparently, he wanted  these types of dance sequence, and he got them.  Why change around the entire film for a dance that is  peripheral to the plot  and does not affect the story?  

 

 

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1. Does a movie that has as stylized a scene as An American in Paris’ ending ballet need to use a less-than-realistic, stylized approach throughout the film?

Not really, throughout most of the film we see more realistic settings to describe the look and feel of Paris during the era in which it was made. Even though some of the settings are a bit stylized, we get a chance to observe the sights and sounds of the city itself. Characteristics such as the streets, cafés, people and their culture all come to life right before our eyes, even in a seemingly mundane way. Essentially, the point of all of this was to enhance the effects of the more fantasy based scenes, such as the ballet scene in the film's finale. 

 

2.  What keeps Jerry Mulligan from being completely unlikeable in a scene in which he acts pretty darn unlikeable?

Well, it's essentially expressed in his characteristics and over-all personality. From the beginning, we see him portrayed as a regular guy. He's honest and straightforward even if it comes across as unpleasant at times. Like in the scene from the clip, we first observe him as being very cheerful and care-free while he's strolling through the streets of Paris to his regular spot where sell his paintings. As he's setting up, we see him interact with some other fellow artists working in the same area. Right away, he's friendly, warm, and charming, indicating to the audience that he's a very likeable person who has a good disposition. The only time that we see that disposition really shift is when a young girl approaches to offer her own observations on his paintings. As she states her unwanted criticism of his work, we then see him become more despondent and bit more aggressive, essentially chasing her away because she's not actually interested in buying his work. We then see his mood shift, once again, into a more passive and defensive tone when a slightly more mature woman approaches to express her interest in his work. As he interacts with her, he manages to exercise his caution while still expressing his curiosity about her true intentions. This being said, the character himself isn't necessary unlikeable, but rather guarded instead. As an artist, he's in a position were he has to constantly put himself out there in order to make a living. This often brings him in contact with all different kinds of people and all different kinds of situations. When unpleasant situations arise, he has to be able to handle himself in order to protect his work and his best interests.  

 

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I believe having a less than realistic approach throughout the entire movies actually helps play up the beautiful dance/musical scenes. I think it helps remind of us the escaping reality theme of the 30s. Gene's love for Leslie grows throughout the movie and I think the small dances and intimate conversations eventually lead up to the massive ballet number which places an exclamation point for the whole movie.

I don't really think he's unlikable in the scene. I think his "unlikable" nature comes from the frustration of being a starving artist. Throughout the rest of the movie his personality is more persistent than unlikable. As he's traveling to set up shop he's passing by his fellow artists and just seems happy go lucky. But when it comes down his art not only does he want to showcase it he wants to sell it. So as the college student passes he knows that she's not going to buy anything and shoos her off in the hopes of another passerby that will consider his art and low and behold Milo walks up.

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On 6/20/2018 at 11:13 PM, Dr. Vanessa Theme Ament said:

 

  1. Does a movie that has as stylized a scene as An American in Paris’ ending ballet need to use a less-than-realistic, stylized approach throughout the film?
  2. Why yes...to make Jerry someone real, a smart aleck American.  Self assured, snapping at the student.  I love him!!  Milo sees Jerry as talented and probably has had enough encounters with know it all Americans to appreciate and be pleased by Jerry's treatment of the student.
     
  3. What keeps Jerry Mulligan from being completely unlikeable in a scene in which he acts pretty darn unlikeable?
  4. His wit, the fact that we had a lot of Jerry's in our world then.  And Gene...gosh he's so darned attractive who could hate him?

 

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The end of An American in Paris is so stylized that it is necessary to have some of that throughout the rest of the film. To be honest, this has always been something I have disliked about the movie. I like the story of the beginning and I love the ballet sequence at the end but there is some dissonance between the two parts, to me. I believe it is because it totally unexpected. You follow the story between the two main characters, you see them fall in love and overcome the obstacle (of the other woman), and then "Wow, really?!?" A bit more stylized set up in the narrative would be good. 

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The ballet scene is more of a fantasy sequence than realistic. Jerry Mulligan is a "regular guy" whom doesn't fit with the other characters we see. The other characters we see appear to wear colors that represent them, like Jerry. Jerry wears white, the student wears red, the rich lady wears gray and has a driver that is driving a green car. 

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An Ugly American in Paris - Daily Dose #12

1. Does a movie that has as stylized a scene as An American in Paris’ ending ballet need to use a less-than-realistic, stylized approach throughout the film?

I think not.  Using a more realistic style would have made the fantasy and dream sequences even more fantastic.  In the clips we reviewed, the Oscar Levant clip shows how this would play.  A single room, looking cramped, a man who dreams of a grand concert.  I think it's a much better scene than the stylized version of a black and white ball that leads up to the ballet.

2. What keeps Jerry Mulligan from being completely unlikeable in a scene in which he acts pretty darn unlikeable?

  I would say there are three "bits" that keep him wholly unlikeable, and both are silent.  When he passes the one painter and does a double take (The painter bearing a strong resemblance to Winston Churchill, himself an amateur painter), the instance when he walks through the conversation between the old painter and the gendarme,  and when he is speaking to the female painter across the street.  Otherwise, he seems put-offish and very much an ugly American, as if he is embarrassed to be identified as an American.

Love the Noel Neill bit.  Met her at an event related to the premiere of "Superman Returns"!

 

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On 6/21/2018 at 2:07 PM, MSecaur said:

1. The visual look of "An American In Paris" has always reminded me of a Ludwig Bemelman's "Madeline" story come to life, with its bold colors and Impressionistic style, and even though the performances are fairly realistic, the overall feel of the film is to me quite stylized.

Oh  my gosh yes!  That is exactly it.  Bold colors,  clear shapes and lines.   It is Paris of the American imagination-- for all the people who wish they could be over there painting and falling in love. It is hyper-clean and hyper-precise. 

And Gigi, of course, is Matisse, Lautrec, and Van Gogh.

madeline.JPG

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I found him to be very unlikable. It was very rude the way Jerry behaved to that college student. She was polite and didn't deserve to be yelled at like that. He wasn't very nice to the rich lady either. Throughout the movie, he acted pompous, arrogant and loud. His best quality is his dancing. That's the most likable quality he has and that could be why viewers can forgive his bad attitude.

Gene Kelly's movie characters aren't very warm and fuzzy. He always plays the playboy or the tough guy. It's hard for me to warm up to him but I love his dancing--especially tap dancing. And Singing in the Rain is one of my all-time favorite movie musicals.

An American in Paris isn't one of my favorite films. I don't enjoy watching it. I like most of the songs, I love ballet and I'm a fan of fine art but there's something about this movie that turns me off. Maybe it was trying to be too cultural and serious and that took the fun out of watching it. I've heard that a love of movie studios added opera, ballet, etc to their movies so people wouldn't criticize them for being cheap entertainment. I'm more of a fan of musicals made in the 1940's because they were more entertaining. Anyway, American in Paris is well produced, it just doesn't appeal to me.

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  1. Does a movie that has as stylized a scene as An American in Paris’ ending ballet need to use a less-than-realistic, stylized approach throughout the film?
    No, I don't think it needs to use the stylized approach throughout the film, I actually enjoyed the beginning of the film more and was not as keen on the ballet interpretation of his rejection at the end.  I want the guy to get the girl.  It was a nice gesture on Henri's part.  
     
  2. What keeps Jerry Mulligan from being completely unlikeable in a scene in which he acts pretty darn unlikeable?
    I actually like that he is brash and confident!  I think that he knows what he wants and is initially apprehensive of Milo.  He knows what she is.  Perhaps he's hungry?

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     What makes Jerry remain likable is how we have seen him in the cafe earlier singing and dancing with the old woman and the owner's wife, and his interactions with Oscar Levant and Gigi's fiancee.  Then walking with his paintings to hang them to American in Paris by Gershwin and seeing his interactions along the way with his fellow artist, the older artist arguing with the police officer and how he walks by "Churchill", and then calls to "Marie".  We see the happy Jerry who loves his life in Paris, and who loves Paris.  He's just a big friendly kid.  We may know about his being a hard task master, or how Debbie Reynolds felt about his first kiss with her, (calling for coke), but we forget all that watching him and just enjoy and catch his happiness. 

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1. It really depends on the film. In a movie like On The Town, which features a similar stylized dance number towards the end, the sets are very much realistic (being on-location in New York). An unrealistic, fantastical scene in an otherwise grounded film can serve as a memorable break from monotonous set pieces. In An American in Paris, though, where everything is fashioned in subtle ways to look like paintings, a ballet designed with impressionist styles seems like a logical conclusion. It's the grand finale to this art exhibit of a film; the piece de resistance!

2. Well, being portrayed by one of the most charming actors to grace the screen can make any jerkish character seem likeable. Gene Kelly could've played Adolf Hitler and made him seem likeable! Even without Kelly's innate positive energy, Mulligan has shown us in previous scenes (as well as this one, somewhat) that he is very amicable to most everybody he meets. He's friends with the local children, the café owners, pretty much everyone except the third-year student. We can assume from his dialogue that he has had a lot of experience with college types, so perhaps he tried being nice to them at first, only to get a sour opinion of the lot after some bad apples came his way.

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I don't think it was necessary for this film to have the stylized approach throughout.  The ballet at the end was beautiful and colorful thanks to Minelli, but the rest of the movie was so darn entertaining that it is perfect just the way it is.

 

It is hard to not like Jerry.  He's friendly to all he meets along the way to where he displays his paintings and has a bounce in his step and a smile on his face.  He speaks harshly to the college student because he recognized who she was or more so what she was and felt she would insult his work so he moved her on along to protect his feelings.  This sort of makes him more likeable because this made him more human to the viewer.

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I don't think that the film needs to use a less-than-realistic approach throughout the film in order to include the more surreal ballet at the end. In fact, the use of realism throughout the film creates a contrast that helps the ballet to stand out more as a dream sequence.

I thought he was a huge jerk at first, but his explanation for his behavior changed my mind, as I have definitely also been irked by pseudo-intellectuals in the past and understood what he meant! :)

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1- As you have said and its kind of pointed out that this Paris is not the real Paris. Its almost a dream version of Paris, its the movie version of Paris. So if its a dream or movie version that means anything can happen in Paris. So having the ending as a ballet is fine for the ending of this colorful dancing film.

2- Jerry is not unlikeable in this one scene. He is only being rubbed the wrong way by a college kid who wants to talk about his art. Jerry (my guess) is that he has done that already in his life and now paints for making money and not fun anymore. Jerry is in the business to make money on his pantings not talk about his work. So he just pushes her along till someone who wants to buy his paintings comes along...

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  1. Not at all. Musicals have artifice built in from the start. Who breaks out to song, and has a backing track and tap shoes at the ready? So there’s freedom to explore and use different styles. What movies need to be is authentic and consistent to themselves. The stylized scenes in these films almost always have a setup—a dream, a production number from the show within the movie—that allow for more expressive vs. realistic approach to make a point or emphasize a feeling.
  2. First, and most simply, it’s Kelly. Whether his performance choices, or those of the director, there are subtle ways he delivers the lines, including his position and posture that make the viewer understand this character. At the same time, the preceding scene before he starts talking, when he’s simply walking through Paris, feels at first unnecessary. Yet that is a crucial scene. Kelly is smiling, happily perusing the city’s artists on his way to his spot. This sets up his character up as a likable sort. So now when you see him interact with the snooty American woman who wants to criticize his work, it comes from a place of resignation that here’s just another person who wants to talk, not to buy. 

    Also, it’s interesting to contrast this scene with first scene of Gene Simmons in Guys and Dolls—she’s truly unlikable in a way that different actor or different staging could soften from the start. She’s supposed to be hard—yet she’s also supposed to be the main love interest. And I find her simply whiny, and wonder why anyone would ever want to be with a person who’s simply going to tell you what you’re doing wrong.

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1. The ballet scene wouldn't have felt as fantastic or dream-like if the movie hadn't been set in realism. If the whole movie had felt like a Picasso or even a Van Gogh in the background as opposed to a Rembrandt or a Monet, the whole movie would have had a more cartoony-unrealistic feel. That would have transposed into the ballet scene, where it wouldn't have been as stark, out of place, dream-like, or beautiful. 

The same goes for Lise's introduction. The bold colors as she plays caricatures of herself wouldn't have been as unique, creative, or enjoyable if the entire movie had been done in that style. I also think, if the setting for the movie hadn't been realistic, it wouldn't be a timeless film the way it is now.

2. Jerry is brought to us as a fun, jovial young man who walks the streets of Paris on his way to sell his paintings. He's friendly to everyone he meets - including the woman across the street selling her own paintings - speaking to them in fluent French. He's kept from being unlikeable when presented with the Third Year Girl by the girl herself. She approaches, speaks harsh French that shows she has little real connection to the culture, and then instantly tells him why his paintings aren't quite there. She doesn't introduce herself, doesn't offer a compliment first, and speaks in harsh, clipped tones that make her the unlikeable one.

Even though he's harsh with her, we're given the impression that he's dealt with her kind before, which he goes on to say to Nina Foch's character (I can't BELIEVE how young she is. She does so well coming across as an "older woman"). He's kind to her, doesn't chase her away, but explains to her why he wasn't a fan of the girl before. 

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1. I don't believe a stylized approach is needed. Frankly, I prefer a less stylized approach and in some instances (like dream sequences) a bit of fantasy is expected and even prefered.

 

2. I don't think the character is unlikeable except when he criticizes the student at the beginning. I even felt sorry for him because business wasn't good and excited that someone was finally buying one of his paintings.

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On 6/21/2018 at 12:00 PM, Warne's Brat said:

I have a lot to say about this particular daily dose, partly because the curator's comments were particularly interesting and insightful, and partly because An American in Paris is the film that sealed the deal for me in terms of becoming a lifelong fan of Gene Kelly.

1) I think the ballet, as a more or less self-contained island within the film, is about as stylized as the film ever gets.  Just prior to it, we have the highly stylized and visually arresting Beaux Arts ball, where nearly everything is black and white.  That said, the Minnelli touch is everywhere, and as we've already learned, every detail means something.  So while the bulk of the film, taking place in the streets, or in Jerry or Adam's apartments, or alongside the Seine (or what have you), may be more naturalistic and less outwardly stylized, every scene was put together with the greatest of care, intention, and attention to detail. Personally, I think if the whole film had been decked out as the ballet or the ball are decked out it would be too much.  We don't need another Les Demoiselles de Rochefort, or even The Pirate (though it works in the context of that intentionally over the top film). 

2) Another commenter (I think it was Joshua Goodstein) mentioned that Jerry Mulligan is more or less eminently unlikable throughout the film.  Despite being a champion of Kelly, I am inclined to agree that in many scenes, Jerry is boorish, pushy bordering on 'stalkerish,' and overly insouciant.  I know that we are supposed to think Milo is a sort of predator, and maybe she is, but Nina Foch played her with a gentle vulnerability that makes me pity her.  Despite the film's attempt to get me excited about a match between Jerry and Lise, I am left thinking that Jerry doesn't really deserve either of the women in his love triangle - and that he isn't man enough to handle a real woman.  Leslie Caron is adorable as Lise, and they actually do have a bit of chemistry in SOME scenes (but not all of them - ugh), but she is depicted as a shy and quiet gamine little thing.  A girl.  Nina Foch may have been only 26, but she very convincingly gives off sophistication and experience.

All of that aside, he still has tremendous personal charm.  Kelly's smile alone could charm the soda from a biscuit.  I really think it is his persona that saves the character from being an absolute heel.  And, as others have pointed out, by the time we get to this scene we know Jerry's story.  We know he's our protagonist; we know he served as a GI; we know he's broke; we know kids and little grannies love him.  So we give him the benefit of the doubt.  The other thing that saves him is the fact that the third year girl is pretty annoying.  "Relax, sister... I'm from Perth Amboy, New Jersey."  In this scene, his insouciance is appealing, and Kelly does a good job capturing the lackadaisical approach Jerry has to making a living and dealing with potential customers.  As Gary Rydstrom has pointed out, he moves like a dancer no matter what he is doing, and he is always using his body to convey emotion.  Here, his entire physical person seems to be shrugging at just about every moment.   

I love that the crummy nature of Jerry's paintings was pointed out.  I've always felt that they were the kind of thing a person could pick up as a cheap print from a 'bouquiniste,' and the idea that Milo, as a wealthy patron and promoter of art, takes them seriously, is ludicrous.  Knowing that Minnelli would have known they were rubbish, and hearing someone else point this out, leads me to the conclusion that they are intentionally lousy, and that Milo is promoting his work only to get close to him - obviously, yes - but like from the very beginning and to an extreme degree.  Such is the power of Kelly's charm... ?

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You're right - Gene Kelly is the one that makes it work. I remember the first time I saw An American in Paris I was pretty turned off by the scene where Mulligan approaches Lise while she's with her friends - mainly because, if I'd been Lise, I would have been way freaked out by a man coming on to me like that. 

I can look at the times and say, yes, men were more aggressive in movies back then (Howard Keel spanking Kathryn Grayson in Kiss Me Kate) and things are different now, but that scene always sat ill.

At the end of the day, though, I enjoy the movie because of Kelly. If the role had been played by Howard Keel (a more domineering man with a deeper voice and overbearing stature), this movie would be hated by most today, simply because Keel presents more of a threatening image than Kelly. He's charming, sweet, and often seen as the nice guy - even in movies like For Me and My Gal, where he's often a punk. 

In today's movies, I'd relate him to guys like Tom Hiddleston (or maybe Benedict Cumberbatch). It doesn't matter how bad of a guy Hiddleston plays - we all know he's a gentleman in his everyday life and one of the kindest celebrities out there. That's how, no matter how horrible the character is, people love the villain or jerk character more than they should.

Gene Kelly could have played Hitler in a fun, upbeat musical and made America feel confused about why they were supposed to hate the Third Reich (exaggeration, obviously). He was an American Golden Boy, and that's why Jerry Mulligan gets away with it.

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I totally agree with the comment made by "A Ryan Seacrest Type" about the character Jerry Mulligan played by Gene Kelly. To me he is a brash American acting brash to another brash American. Being an artist set up on the street to paint and sell your paintings with people passing by and sometimes commenting on your work is all part of it. If he can't stand the heat, he should "get out of the kitchen," so to speak, or choose another place to paint. As a so-called Alpha male, he seems to have a very thin skin. 

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To me, when watching Jerry Mulligan (Kelly) interact with the other American, he seems ignorant and rude. But as the clip progressed, he came across as charming and even humble when he didn't expect his art to sell.

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