Dr. Vanessa Theme Ament

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

229 posts in this topic

1.  I don't know if it needs the less-than-realistic, stylized approach.  Do we have an example in this course of one that does not? Maybe the on-location scenes in On the Town where, as our lecturers noted, has some pretty dirty, gritty backgrounds? However, for An American in Paris, the more stylized approach works. The entire musical is a more theatrical production. Some of this approach may have been logistics, since Paris was less than idyllic after the destruction of WWII. The scenes had to be created opening the space for everything to look just so with lots of color to add to the final ballet.

2.  That's easy, he's forgiven because he's incredibly handsome. Like it or dislike it, women being attracted to the handsome rogue or loser is a theme in Hollywood screenplays. I also think the singing and dancing of a musical eases the un-likeability. No one who can dance that good can be all that bad, right?

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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 that it necessarily has to although this movie does have several stylized scenes.  Like Levant's dream for instance. 
     
  2. What keeps Jerry Mulligan from being completely unlikeable in a scene in which he acts pretty darn unlikeable?  I tend to agree with some of the others that he acts like a child sometimes.  But he does have a charming side and he does let that shine though.  He can also be more upbeat and pleasant when things are going well. 

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  1. 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. In this movies since it’s Gene Kelly it’s hard not always feel like you like him.  This said, it’s rather a opposite personalities that come together.  It’s really not my favorite movie with Gene Kelly but they seem to always work and Leslie Caron is charming in her first movie that shows off her talents.
     
  4. 2..  What keeps Jerry Mulligan from being completely unlikeable in a scene in which he acts pretty darn unlikeable?
There always is this boyish charm that may belong to Gene Kelly or it comes out in this character.  

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1.  Even though, in this film, "Paris" was built in ... just ... A Back Lot of MGM's film studio, it did NOT fail to deliver the Realist-ism to bring up the Feels of any audience/viewer being in Paris.  However, the Ending "Ballet" in this film was to deliver The Fantasy, i.e. by default, being Unrealistic.  Besides, all the ballet performances on stage are always considered as a form of Art to use human body movements to tell stories while expressing feelings, and human feelings are mostly considered Abstract by themselves.  It actually gives viewers the Visual Contrast to enjoy the story with a very different approach.

2.  In my opinion, Jerry Mulligan, i.e. Kelly's role, is NOT Exactly Unlikeable.  He was very agreeable to fellow artists before the girl in Red approached him with her Disagreeable "opinions" in Jerry Mulligan's point of view.  Thus, I consider Jerry Mulligan is a straightforward and expressive guy, instead.  Self-Centred, maybe.  Lots of artists are Self-Centred ...... various in degree, though!  But, NOT to the degree of being Totally Unlikeable in the first place.  And, Milo Roberts, i.e. Foch's role, had exactly THAT Observation to approach him the "proper" way!

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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, if the movie had been stylized throughout, it would have been too much and would be more an “art movie”. Jerry Mulligan’s everyman appeal would be lost and the movie would be less appealing to the broad movie audiences of the 1950’s. 

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

Mulligan is being rude and acting unlikable as a means of dealing with ongoing rejection of his art. His paintings are not selling and he has developed a tough skin to survive.  He is rude the third year student because, he doesn't want to hear her comments, he heard it all before. If he allows himself to be nice, he might quit and throw in the towel .

He is redeemed when he meets Milo and she offers to buy his work. Suddenly, he lets down his guard, and he is overwhelmed that his work is being accepted.  Jerry is endearing in that he is not greedy or devious, he doesn’t know what to charge for his artwork.  By the scene’s end, we recognize that Jerry is not a bad guy, he is just guarded and frustrated with his slow progress.

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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 do not think so. I think the clash of styles produces a more interesting result. There's almost an ethereal quality to the whole film, even before the ballet at the end, and I feel that serves to emphasize the romantic, dreamlike quality of Paris.
 

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

Gene Kelly himself, actually. He acts brusquely toward the two women, but Kelly is otherwise such a charismatic leading man that one ultimately overlooks it.

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I don't think Minnelli needed to use a less than reality look for the film. To begin with, it looks great. The colors, the clothes, the scenery, everything about it is wonderful. It should stand in contrast to the ending ballet dance scene as that was a fantasy. If the film had the same look, the dance scene wouldn't have the same type of impact it has had.

What keeps Jerry from being completely unlikable is the way Kelly portrays him. He's walking down the street greeting people so we already have a sense of what kind of person he is. He may have been abrupt with the 3rd year college student, but it was obvious in his conversation with Milo that he's dealt with their criticism more than once. He was pretty straight forward with Milo but she appeared to enjoy it. Why else would she buy his paintings? Kelly could have easily used a sharper tone with the student and perhaps the same when he finds out that Milo doesn't have the money, but he doesn't. He's a bit curt but not much more. Even his body language is relaxed. 

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  1. If the director of the movie wants the ending ballet scene to be more dramatic, using a less than realistic approach for the rest of the movie would work best.  This would make the ending scene stand out more.  
     
  2.   I think Jerry Mulligan's smile and his honesty keeps him from being completely unlikeable.  He is just being honest in his feelings and being straight to the point about this.  

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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?

This entire movie is about the interaction between fantasy and reality and the blurring of perception, but the real love story of the movie is between America and France – especially Paris.

One of the recurring admonitions from Dr. Ament has been to recall the history of the time when the movie was made. Made in 1951, Europe (and especially France) was just beginning to recover from WWII. The USA was engaged in helping this recovery (Marshall Plan: 1948-53. Recall that one of the backstories of the making of this movie is how Leslie Caron’s shooting schedule had to be carefully planned because she was recovering from wartime malnutrition.) There was still a strong US military presence in Europe. Soldiers returning from Europe after WWI fueled the popularity of the Gershwin music on which this movie is founded. (Fun Fact: Gershwin brought back from Paris actual Parisian taxi horns for the 1928 Carnegie Hall premiere of “An American in Paris”. Was he nostalgic? Absolutement!) And this political and economic involvement and the personal stories of GIs returning from WWII kindled our curiosity about France in the 1950’s. 

The so-called “realistic” scenes reflect a highly selected view of Paris. The choice of settings reflects the mental postcards most American visitors to Paris recall: the cafes and studio apartments of the Latin Quarter, the Seine at night, the steps of Montmarte, the Champs-Élysées, the Folies=Bergère, the fountains, the Impressionist masterpieces – and even coffee and croissants make it into the movie. 

Neither are the fantasy scenes limited to the final ballet. The scene wherein Henri’s describes Lise to Adam plays like an adolescent’s thoughts on his dream girl. Filmed in a fantastic style, the costumes, hairstyle, dance style, set color and decoration each reflect isolated snapshots of her perfections: the mind in fantasy mode. Lise is none of those characteristics absolutely, and yet all of them partially. Fantasy and reality are all intermixed Sounds like Love, doesn’t it?

Oscar Levant as Adam has his own fantasy scene: the Gershwin Third movement of Concerto in F daydream. True to Adam’s character, he is the composer, director, soloist, orchestra, and audience in the scene. But is not a composer all of those roles in reality?

 

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

Many have already commented on Jerry’s interactions with various locals in the opening of the scene thus indicating his acceptance as an honorary local. I suspect also that dressing Jerry in white plays a role in our thinking better of him than he may deserve, also. And who can think anything negative about anyone with that beautiful music flowing under and through the scene. 

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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?

Since the ending ballet is a fantasy, it needs the contrast of the rest of the film in order to really be portrayed as just that - a fantasy.

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

I honestly don't find him unlikeable at all! Quite the contrary! He greets his fellow painters, he seems to be in a good mood up until the 3rd year student comes along and only then does he show another side of himself but that's only because he knows what to expect. He's been through it before. He has the right to tell the girl off. He's honest, simple as that.

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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 don't think it does.  I think part of the point of having the huge stylized scene at the end was because it was a fantasy - over the top, larger than life and colorful.  The fact that the whole movie wasn't filmed in a setting like that makes the ending more meaningful and poignant. 

 

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

Jerry seems like he is having a good day during the beginning of the scene as he walks around and looks at the other painter's offerings.  He sets up his own little corner and seems to be in good spirits.  It's only when we see the third year student walk up and begin to critique his work that Jerry's "Jersey" comes out, letting her know her opinion nor her presence are not wanted.  When Milo approaches directly after, he still is wary and on guard, so he is dismissive and curt when he speaks to her.  I didn't find him unlikeable at all.  Quite the contrary.  I thought he was having a normal reaction to someone who was going to "bust his balls" without any intention to buy anything.  Because of this I think he is still likeable.  He is doing what most of us would do in that situation.

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I do not believe that it's imperative for the director to use a more gritty, less stylized approach, because the beautifully fantastic ending ballet scene would be too jarring of a contrast. Minnelli's striking use of color and sophisticated mise en scene throughout the film leads well into Kelly's ballet scene. 

Besides Gene Kelly's obvious natural charm, it is his self-deprecating humor that gives Jerry Mulligan a humble quality and makes the viewers like him very much. We empathize with him, when the third-year student criticizes him, and cheer for him, when Milo decides to purchase his paintings. He's just a down-on-his-luck guy, whose life is about to change, and we are happy to be along for the ride. 

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1-The most telling clue that this scene gives us in terms of a new, or "backwards" classical musical" number is clearly the fact that we don't get to SEE a musical number. The clarinetist boy is instantly cut off, no one finishes their song or dance, no choreography, no big sing, we don't get to see a good number, or even a bad number in full, there is in fact is NO musical number...in a musical...which is on a stage...with a ton of performers..in costume, ready...to perform..."let me entertain you" but later...much later...

2-Russell's entrance is big and full, nothing is small, this is a STAGE entrance, both literally onto an actual stage within the film, but also bigger than many film musicals would have done prior. In the 40s or 50s we might have had more filmic set up, a close up of Mamma Rose maybe listening at the door, peeking through the cracks to see her daughters, an eye trying to spy close up, but here we get a full on entrance, full body, full voice. The costuming leaps from the character, and it is no coincidence I am sure that she is in full leopard print, a jungle cat who will cut and kill anyone who goes near her baby cubs. In addition, the carrying in of a dog on one arm and a large leopard purse on the other has literally "armed her" with animal camouflage, she bites, and so too might her dog, so don't mess with her, don't come too close. Russell also uses her stage and film training to project her voice like a stage actress, she throws it across the room in a stage style, projecting as a performer, and as a Mamma who WILL be heard.

3-Our obvious go-to here are the double-entendre lyrics, a genius set-up of foreshadowing, "let me entertain you" now...and later...Louise is listening to these lyrics, living them as a second party, but taking them in for later use..."tricks" is the big word here, from magic to fun, from burlesque to stripper. Louise's "trick" could actually be considered as a suggestive finger movement, a small wiggle, a tiny accent that suggests more. High kicks with lots of crinolines and petticoats is one thing, those kicks without those costuming bits can and will reveal much more. The song also gives a finite time line "by the time I'm through..." something will change by the end of the song, there will be a transformation to the person WATCHING the number, genius set up of how someone watching will go from one state...to another...in a short period of time...very sly, very witty. 

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1. I don't think that a highly stylized approach like that of the dream ballet has to be used throughout the piece; the contrast actually is nice. But I don't think that we need to see a completely realistic, nitty-gritty Paris either. The film as a whole is somewhat escapist, and it would be a shame to lose that quality. I like Minnelli's mise-en-scene in this movie in particular because it feels like we're watching a movie about an artist through the lens of an artist. It's so easy to find beauty in just a simple street scene in this film, and it feels oh so appropriate that this is what Mulligan himself is painting. 

2. I'm not sure Mulligan is acting unlikeable at all, to be honest. The American girl criticizes his work to his face under the guise of having an intellectual conversation, and I think he responds appropriately. His conversations with his fellow artists at the start of the scene establish him as a friendly, good-humored guy, and this helps us to sympathize with him more. 

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His smile, his ability to speak with folks on the street his wonderful ability to walk with grace. He can play a likeable cad better than anyone. Once he starts speaking with Nina Foch his meaness really comes out. His reference to those third year girls coming to study art really shows his envy as a starving artist and he directs that anger on Nina Foch who sees to be even more motivated to get her man.

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I read that the ballet visually reflected an artist's viewpoint so the ballet scene represents a painter's view of Paris. I think it is true of the film, not just the ballet. The color scheme and costumes throughout the film are important to the narrative as they reflect the mood of the time, art and the music as well as each character's personalities. This is a constant throughout the film, therefore, the stylized approach is also less than realistic and more a reflective idea of Paris and people at that time.

Jerry isn't completely unlikeable, he just has low expectations of his art being sold or appreciated and like most people do not like criticism. He is just more honest about it than other people who are trying to sell their art.

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1. I don't think that the entire film needs to be unrealistic and stylized. This clip helps set the scene for the movie and Jerry and makes the ballet sequence and other stylized musical numbers even better.

2. Even when he's playing unlikable characters, Gene Kelly's natural charisma and personality show through. Jerry is snooty and brash, but it still comes off as charming and honest instead of downright mean. 

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

I think Jerry Mulligan is likable because he is himself 100%. He's honest and insults when he feels the need to, everyone can somewhat respect brutal honesty

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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 there is a good mix of media. I feel as though the director did a great job of portraying france without leaving the states. Just enough detail to make it appear true to form.
 

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

His charm. Hes a bit of a stubborn head. He has a bit of an ego. He doesn't care what the one lady in red  says but is almost falling all over himself at the self assured blonde.

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Minnelli's use of famous paintings as a jumping off point for the ballet is brilliant. Since the ballet is something going on in Jerry's imagination, I don't feel that it's out of place, particularly since a similar look was used for the introduction of Leslie Caron's character. I also believe it would not have had the same impact if they had filmed it in a realistic way. 

Jerry is an intelligent character and has spent considerable effort to learn to be an artist, and has spent enough time in Paris to be able to spot the wealthy pseudo-intellectual students. He was rude to the girl, but I don't think he was unlikeable. I would be offended if she had walked up to MY paintings and started critiquing them too. 

My acting teacher and dear friend, Gary Austin (founder of the Groundlings), who passed away last year, told a story in class about Nina. While she was teaching acting, she wanted to learn more about improvisation. She attended his class for MONTHS, watching other students, asking questions, worked hard, learning all she could. One day, as a scene was happening, Gary gave a simple direction. She stopped, looked at Gary, and said, "that's it??? That's improv?" He looked at her and said triumphantly, "yes!" She said, "well, that's easy!" And that was the last improv class she took.

 

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When there's a highly stylized scene in a film it does not mean the whole film needs to be done that way. By making a scene stand out it gets an emphasis that it wouldn't have if the whole

film matched that. Does it need to be less-than-realistic? Probably not. It all depends on how that stylized scene is supposed to make you feel.

To me, Jerry Mulligan isn't too unlikeable here. I can see what he's doing with that student, "Don't waste my time by trying to act the way you imagine you should act, and I won't waste your

time by playing your little game." It's the same thing I do when telemarketers call, "No, I'm not interested, have a nice day." and hang up, or if it's in person, I walk away. Clearly he's been

there for a while so he can tell what type of person is inspecting his artwork, and he can tell what type of opinions they'll give. When Milo walks up, intrigued by his treatment towards the

student, he can tell that she is genuinely interested in looking at the artwork. Why should he have stood around being critiqued by someone who is trying to be someone they're not? Instead

he can get actual feedback, whether he cares for it or not, from someone who is being real. In this whole clip he is just being human.

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A movie is not required to maintain a similar approach throughout the entirety of the film and in An American in Paris I believe the stylized scene does well to portray the fantasy as it is intended. The break in style and form allows the audience to identify it as just that...a break in reality. 

 

Jerry Mulligan's character rises above being loathsome partly because he is simply played by Gene Kelly. Although, I would also have to argue that he doesn't seem unlikeable due to the everyman quality of Mulligan (at least in this scene). He is cordial, but not overly friendly to his fellow artists and seems irritated when a younger person criticizes his work, both relatable instances. I even read his response to Milo's request to buy his paintings not as suspicion, but rather giddy amazement that someone finally appreciates his art beyond stopping to analyze it, which is how most starving artists would respond.

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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?


Why not? I don’t think it’s a matter of does a movie need to but of does it feel better to carry the same theme through the movie? I’m not an expert at this but this movie changes a lot. It’s a totally different type of movie. I remember watching it for the first time and thinking whoever dreamed it up must have been on serious drugs. But the darn thing worked, worked really great. I think because it had such an unrealistic, fantasy kind of feel to it. My answer is no it doesn’t need to have that approach all the time, but sometimes it needs it, and its genius when you know the difference.


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

He never struck me as being ‘pretty darn unlikeable’. He always struck me as being frustrated with where his life was, where his painting wasn’t, where his lack of customers were. I always thought that he had just reached a place where he didn’t want to suffer fools gladly; probably because he had suffered through enough of them or felt enough of a fool himself.

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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 don’t think that the entire film needs to have the same stylized approach throughout. For one, if the entire film was as stylized as the ending ballet, the ballet wouldn’t seem as special because it would be no different or better or worse than the rest of the film. 
 

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

For starters, he’s played by Gene Kelly. I don’t find him unlikeable in this scene as much as frustrated. He carries his paintings around and it’s obvious that he is not selling much. When the college student starts criticizing his work, you can tell that this isn’t the first time it’s happened. I think anybody would have reacted the way he did to criticism, and some would have been much more harsh. His frustration carries over into his meeting with Milo and by that point I think he’s thinking to himself, what do I have to lose?

 

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1. No, the ballet scene is strictly fantasy, but the rest of the story is based in reality. Therefore, it would not make sense for the film to maintain such a stylized element throughout the story.

2. Although Jerry is abrasive and rather obnoxious, there is a certain quality to his character that keeps him from being completely unlikeable. With the college student, he recognizes her falseness and reacts against it. His honesty in that situation keeps his rudeness understandable. With Milo, his complete bewilderment over her desire to purchase the paintings is genuinely endearing, that is until he sees her car and demonstrates a purely crass commercial attitude. 

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