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

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Daily Dose #12:

1) I think this movie needs a less than realistic stylized approach in order to seem more real and honest because it will be like a fantasy.  

2) I think having Jerry Mulligan smile and be sarcastic is part of his charm and gives an enhanced look to the character since it shows how he has been "hardened" somewhat by his struggles in Paris.

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I haven't rewatched this film for the course yet, so I'm not sure what I think about this (Hollywood) realism vs the fantasy ballet. Good as the fantasy ballets are, I've never much liked them -- fantasy, but also more reliant upon stereotypes than characters. But watching this clip as a set-up for the Paris art scene is really insightful. The walk up the hill is a catalogue of all the art types you'll see on the streets, and requires an amazing amount of knowledge just to create the 15 second scenario. The first artist is probably the most progressive -- doing the modernist stuff; the second guy kinda rehashing what's left of the Impressionist tradition (looking a little bit like Monet). Of course Winston Churchill, the Amateur Painter par excellence. The Third Year (Junior Year in Paris) Girl is an out-and-out satire, and perhaps off the mark, since those women (usually with better accents after all their schooling -- and who's he kidding, how good is Gene Kelly's French?) usually grow up to be women in gray suits with chauffeurs. But his dismissal of her tells me a lot about his character -- he certainly doesn't want to talk about painting, and he has an odd sales manner, too. For some reason, that conversation seemed to indicate to me that he doesn't really want to be an artist, that it's some sort of excuse. Nina Foch is standing in front of a real gallery, and that window display shows a variety of more legitimate art creations, but definitely past established styles. So, yes, her interest in art should be taken seriously, but only in her potential role as an Art Patron, and whatever ulterior love motives might develop. As an artist, Kelly is definitely working in a style prominent in Paris in the 1950s... a kind of continuation of Impressionist street scenes with a little bit of modern edge to them (the Third Year was correct -- playing with perspective gives a little more edge to the style). Bernard Buffet, Maurice Legendre, Utrillo. These definitely appealed to the tourists who wanted to remember their visit to Paris (and in the 1970s, we had some cheap knock-offs of this type of Paris street scene in our home, acquired as Home Decoration in the local grocery store). Quite frankly, vibrant as the Paris intellectual scene was in the 1950s, it was no longer the center of the art world, which was shifting to New York City. What I don't quite understand about Gene Kelly as an artist is why he isn't more successful. The artwork he is exhibiting isn't bad, and it's definitely of a sort popular to buyers. If he is to be believed that he has never sold a painting, it's because he is so thoroughly surly to anybody who wants to engage him a little bit. I mean, after all, part of the thrill of buying a cheap painting of Paris to take home with you is the idea that you got to talk to a Real Live Artist. If Kelly is trying to be a brash American, or one of those macho artists, he is certainly living up to that model. For me, it has always been a part of the story line that he wants to be great without playing the game, and without being so overwhelmingly talented or well-connected that he can get by without playing it. There might have been a lot of American domination in the world in the 1950s, and even in the field of art (NY Abstract Expressionism), but Paris is a a tough nut to crack. In this world, even Churchill is just another guy sitting on the sidewalk. Gene Kelly is friendly, sure, but his arrogance doesn't fit in -- unlikeable. He's cute, though, and maybe the audience likes him for the same reason as does Nina Foch.

AIP_NinaFoch.jpg

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Quick observation about the Oscar Levant clip.  The silly gimmick of having him be the pianist, conductor, violinists, and drummer seems to imply that the viewer would not be interested in the Concerto without this to amuse him/her.  I find it a bit insulting.

 

In terms of being unlikable, I don't think it is softened much by this clip.  

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1 hour ago, Harriet Worobey said:

Quick observation about the Oscar Levant clip.  The silly gimmick of having him be the pianist, conductor, violinists, and drummer seems to imply that the viewer would not be interested in the Concerto without this to amuse him/her.  I find it a bit insulting.

 

In terms of being unlikable, I don't think it is softened much by this clip.  

I think it is not trying to say the viewer wouldn't be interested without the gimmick but rather this is the ego of the character Levant was playing.  He wakes from his fantasy and is a bit disturbed by himself. He is deflated properly by puling a coca-cola from his champagne cooler. 

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1) I don't quite understand the question but I will try my best. The less than stylized approach throughout the film adds to the escapism of the 1950s and the purpose of films. The fact that the movie is very stylized during the dance numbers adds to the whimsical and dream-like quality of being in Paris - in a foreign country outside of the United States.

2) From the beginning of the clip we can see Jerry Mulligan smiling and greeting fellow painters. He looks happy to start a new day in hopes of selling his paintings. He has a brief conversation with the female painter across from him by asking about her day. The character is very likable because he is friendly and happy. It is not until the third year student comes confident and arrogant to criticize his work. Obviously Mulligan's own goal is to sell his work not discuss it or have it on display for criticism. When the rich lady asks Mulligan if he doesn't like criticism he replies, "Who does?" He defends his behavior toward the student to say that Americans go to Paris for culture and be (or pretend) to be more educated than others just by saying something they had heard someone else say. We can see his struggling artist personality become more evident when the rich lady asks about the price for two paintings. Mulligan says, "Gee, I don't know. I never thought I'd come to the point when that would be an issue." He has struggled as an artist that he began to realize that he never would sell any of his paintings until now.

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26 minutes ago, MotherofZeus said:

I think it is not trying to say the viewer wouldn't be interested without the gimmick but rather this is the ego of the character Levant was playing.  He wakes from his fantasy and is a bit disturbed by himself. He is deflated properly by puling a coca-cola from his champagne cooler. 

Yes, but I agree with the point that Harriet was trying to make, also. It's a bit of a problem for orchestra audiences, in fact -- how do you maintain your focus on music only, without any, or limited visuals. I don't blame the movie director for trying to enliven the long piece. I also think that the fantasy element adds to character development -- one of the sub messages of this film is that (perhaps) artists need to be arrogant and self-centered to succeed in this world. As such, that runs counter to the theme of Cooperation that is being put forth as a characteristic of the musicals, and this clip is great at illustrating that -- having Levant play all the parts is not only not acceptable as an example of Egotism, but it really just isn't possible. The messages of this scene go beyond a "gimmick," I would say.

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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?
  2.  
  3. The film is a love story.  Like most love stories, it is often a fantasy.  The film is a love story about people, music and Paris and an ode to ballet.  Minelli offers a lush post war look at life moving forward.
  4.  
    1. What keeps Jerry Mulligan from being completely unlikeable in a scene in which he acts pretty darn unlikeable?       

Well, hell's bell's it's Gene Kelly!  He isn't unlikeable to the other artist, but has clearly been asked the same questions many times by the "third year girls", and has lost his taste for even flirting with them.

 

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15 minutes ago, ameliajc said:

As such, that runs counter to the theme of Cooperation that is being put forth as a characteristic of the musicals, and this clip is great at illustrating that -- having Levant play all the parts is not only not acceptable as an example of Egotism, but it really just isn't possible

Excellent observation. Would their point about "beta" males apply to Levant since he has no romantic interest in this movie? I ask this realizing Gene Kelly is an exception to the rule of cooperative alpha male, but do the 50s really have cooperate alpha males? Don't they have cooperation as a group theme but alpha males have to be stand out?  I have to mull this one over. 

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1.      That is a tough question, I think keeping it realistic for the majority of the movie makes the ending ballet more wonderful.  It is so over the top and stylized, I fear if the movie was this way the whole time, the ending ballet would just blend in and lose some of its dramatic effect.  The dream sequences throughout the film use the stylized approach and it is just enough to see into the characters’ minds.   

2.      I have not finished watching the movie yet, but I think Jerry goes back and forth between being likeable and unlikeable.  They use his interactions with the children to show he is likeable, but when he is with other adults, Oscar Levant and Georges Guetary, his cynicism can be hard to swallow. He very much seems to be conflicted, being the dreamer inside, but has had a lot of hard knocks pursing his dreams.  Sometimes I feel it is Gene Kelly’s own confidence showing through that alters Jerry’s likeability.

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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.  The ballet is Jerry's fantasy.  The style and colors reflect this.  If a less-than-realistic, stylized approach had been used throughout the entire movie, there would be no contrast for the ballet/fantasy.  I love the mixture of the stylized ballet and scenes shot in the outside that are more realistic as it gives the film a wonderful texture.  It is a beautiful film.
  2. What keeps Jerry Mulligan from being completely unlikeable in a scene in which he acts pretty darn unlikeable?  Jerry is from Jersey.  That's just who he is.  His demeanor makes him stand out as an outsider.  He is not pretentious like the 3rd year student, who is trying to speak French.  I also think that his reaction to Milo's offer to buy 2 of his paintings is so sincere.  It is obvious that he has not sold anything in quite some time.  This makes the audience feel empathy toward him.  So, even though he is a bit rude, you forgive him quickly.

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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 the mastery of Minelli shows perfectly in this movie in that he creates a RANGE of scenes within the artistry of recreating Paris. It is in the same voice. There is great continuity of style yet he gets more surreal as the storyline requests therefore emphasizing and distinguishing high points of the story. Its is perfectly beautiful.
 

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

These characters are all behaving pretty unlikeable - maybe demonstrating why Parisians have almost always disliked Americans so much. Regardless, Mulligan saves himself from going over the edge through self-deprecating humor which can almost always keep a viewer from throwing tomatoes.

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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?
    • I believe the whole purpose of the ending ballet is to take us into a different place.  It is a dream sequence of what I imagine to be a recap of Jerry's life from arriving in Paris, through meeting Lis, and how he feels when he's with her.  He's a painter, which is scene through the back drops of the dream.  It truly sets apart his feelings in this dream from the rest of the movie.  If the entire movie were in a similar, stylized approach, we would lose the dream sense, as all of it would seem surreal.  It would take on a feel of Moulin Rouge (2001), which would be too much.  This ballet, along with the opening sequence of what they imagine Lis to be like are distinct, and help the view know that it is how it is pictured in Jerry's mind, rather than set in reality.
       
  2. What keeps Jerry Mulligan from being completely unlikeable in a scene in which he acts pretty darn unlikeable?
    • Most artists (in all forms of fine arts) know what it feels like to get critiques and comments from those who 1) don't know what they are talking about, 2) solicit it when it's not wanted.  Part of why Jerry can still remain likeable is because he is being honest, and saying what most of us would want to say to someone in that situation.  It almost is humorous.  I also think that Jerry can get away with it because we all still see Gene, which we like from his movie portrayals.  Yes, we know he was quite harsh on set, but when watching him on film, we see that characters he plays, so the unlikeable comments made to the "3rd Year" kind of get overlooked and forgotten. 

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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?   

The term suspension of disbelief or willing suspension of disbelief has been defined as a willingness to suspend one's critical faculties and believe something surreal; sacrifice of realism and logic for the sake of enjoyment.  With that said...and to answer the question, of course not, that's the joy of musicals.  The genre creates a less-than-real world that requires suspension of disbelief.  Furthermore the whole ballet is a dream-like sequence inside Jerry's mind.
2.  What keeps Jerry Mulligan from being completely unlikeable in a scene in which he acts pretty darn unlikeable?

Jerry may be a brash American from Perth Amboy NJ, but I didn't find him unlikeable as evident by his warm smile and affable demeanor when he meets others on the street.  It's apparent he's encountered others who are "officious and dull", who profess to know art, and he simply has no patience for them.  

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1. I think the ballet at the end allows us to witness fantasy in the movie amid the regular Paris scenes. It's like the ballet in Singing in the Rain, it was meant to be a fantasy scene, separate from the regular script of switching movies to sound. 

2. For one, it is Gene Kelly and that alone makes him likable. He has a friendly face and is amicable to the other people he encounters walking to his spot to paint. He's only rude to the student because she was pretentious and wanted to give him advice on his work. 

 

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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? One would think that a movie about a real city would have realistic looking scenery as Paris looks, even though it's shot in Culver City. The ballet is a dream/fantasy sequence and should appear so. 
 

What keeps Jerry Mulligan from being completely unlikeable in a scene in which he acts pretty darn unlikeable? Jerry seems to get along with his fellow artists on the street and only dislikes the "third year student". As with other films, the anti-intellectualism of the common man is shown here. Only when he can sell a painting does he really become more capitalistic rather than artistic.

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1. This is a musical so it has a lot of leeway in that area, one of the best things about musicals is that you can be unrealistic and still have the story line of the film taken seriously, granted it is a fine line you have to walk while doing so. The first time I watched the film I remember thinking of the creativity of it, rather than it being unrealistic.

2. First of all it's Gene Kelly so you already like him. I really did not find his character to be unlikable, I actually found him to be bold, honest and humorous. The two women in the scene were unlikeable in my opinion which probably made me like Kelly's character even more. This is a technic still used in pictures today, the taking of a unlikeable character and putting him or her with an even worse character(s). 

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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?
 

My favorite Kelly movie. I could not imagine this film any other way and find this stylized approach leading and preparing the viewer for the wow factor of the ending ballet. Otherwise, it would have been choppy. It’s simply brilliant and smooth throughout. It’s like little morsels until the finale. 

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

The “go on and beat it” is typical street artist behavior for negative feedback from people who just want to voice opinion without good conversation. Kelly is very welcoming among other artists, very worldly and seen her coming. It’s expected. Also, there is the persona of the hungry artist mentality. He is surprised with a sale, and very open to suggest “should’ve asked for more”. Kelly does a great job of showing the viewer this side of Paris life. 

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1. I think that the fact that most of the film takes place in the ordinary everyday life of a starving American artist in post war Paris makes the fantasy ballet sequence at the end all the more powerful so I don't think the film necessarily needed to carry that element all the way through.

2. I didn't see Jerry Mulligan as an annoying character at all. He was very friendly to his fellow artist as he searched for the perfect spot to sell his art on the streets of Montmarte If the woman in the red dress wouldn't have started off critisizing and critquing his work right away then I don't think Jerry would have been so snappish with her. His reaction to Nina who shows curiosity towards Jerry's situation and his work at first gets a slightly warmer reception that the third year student. 

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1. The ballet is a beautiful Minelli fantasy and is an interesting departure from the American expatriate’s experience and more in line with our introduction to Lisa via all those impressions of her.

2. Jerry typifies brash aggressive loud American that is always in the back of most French men’s mind but they seem to accept him as is and have a good relationship so that somehow softens his characters first impressions.

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1. The ballet sequence scene is a fantasy scene so needs a lot of colour because it's not real, where the rest of the movie doesn't need a lot of colour because it shows it's more realistic. 

2. Jerry Mulligan is stopped from being completely unlikeable by saying a greeting to his fellow street artists and that he is nice because he's friendly towards them. He is only unlikeable when he is rude to the American student because she wants to talk about his work, but he doesn't care about an American student's opinion. He is also stopped being unlikeable when Milo is interested in his paintings, so he's nice to her because he wants her to buy them and he is taken aback that she does. 

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An American in Paris appears quite stylised throughout the entire film. Hence, there is continuity. It is very artistic with an expansive colour palate and very specific colour choices for each scene. Everything links together and is integrated in a way that makes sense artistically.

Jerry Mulligan is somewhat cocky, bossy and rude in this scene, yet we sympathise with him because he is a poor, struggling artist. He is trying to assert and prove himself in a world in which his work has not been recognised. He is substituting weakness with dominance. It is difficult to unlike him when he just wants to get ahead like any common man.  

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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, it doesn’t. It’s a film more or less about art and the stylized aspect of it all needs to be there.
 

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

When the use of a likable person is used to play a villain or an unlikeable, it’s hard to dive into the feelings of the scene is approaching. Then again, the way Jerry Mulligan acts somehow contradicts the whole unpleasant experience of being unliked.

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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?

Since the ballet number is all fantasy, it can be less realistic and stylized. However, the rest of the film is supposed to be real life, so it is best if it stays as realistic as possible. 
 

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

He seems very approachable in his dress. He also seems humble; especially when the lady wants to buy a painting and he never thought anyone would. He's brusque in his manner, but also approachable. He's also not a native to Paris, so he has a thick skin that has to be softened. 

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1. I think, with such a highly-stylized scene as the ending ballet, the rest of An American in Paris can afford to have its aesthetic much more rooted in reality. To American audiences - many of whom may probably never see the real thing - the very idea of Paris is already surreal and romanticized in its vision enough, even the more bohemian, slightly grittier-looking sections as Montmartre. Gene Kelly's character is intended to represent the "everyman" in the film, and even the title of the film itself hints at the concept of a "fish out of water", however realistic-looking the world he inhabits actually is. Even as we get into the black and white party scene preceding the party - a situation that would call for at least some degree of the fantastic - the mise en scene still holds back so as to not to take away from the sheer sumptuousness and vividness of the dream sequence following it. Minnelli is looking for the payoff of having the ending "pop" in contrast with the rest of the film, even when set in a place as dream-like as Paris.

2. I can understand the resentfulness that Kelly's character has towards the student; I get the sense that whatever she is telling him he's heard a thousand times before, from people just like her, and he simply isn't interested in going through the motions again. It's true that he does show he is capable of friendliness and warmth in the way that he interacts with the other artists. However, since he is supposed to represent the "everyman", his method of cherry-picking who he listens to and is friendly to is pretty problematic, not only in his character's growth as an artist, but also in the message he is sending to audiences who are supposed to relate to him. Even though the delivery of her critiques is initially a bit off-putting, would it have hurt to hear some constructive criticism? He's clearly an artist who isn't doing well financially, yet he expresses a disinterest in hearing anyone point out the flaws in his work. How is he supposed to improve if he can't take ANY criticism? Why is it that he can be rather rudely presumptuous about who the student is and how she thinks, and yet no one can say boo about his art unless they're super nice to him? His character sends this idea that 1) only his feelings matter and 2) anyone more educated than him shouldn't be listened to or trusted. As innocent as it may have seemed then, these sentiments over decades have now managed to create some very real problems in most every aspect of society, as our current political climate suggests. Kelly's way of thinking is no longer charming: it's pretty dangerous.

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1.  It creates the contrast between reality and fantasy.  In this scene we see a normal down to earth artist that is doing what he likes no matter what anyone thinks.  His paintings match with the background (soft colors of streets and buildings are the same on his paintings) making them not remarkable.  

2.  I think he is honest and not used to the attention.  He knows the college girl is not really an intellectual, anything she says she overheard.  He can't believe the rich lady is interested in his paintings and their value.  I think he is likable for being just a normal guy without pretense.   

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