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

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This forum is for discussion around the Daily Dose of Delight regarding An American in Paris. Recall that Minnelli's direction was discussed and his background was given as information that leads to his approach to directing; particularly his gift for mise-en-scène. With this in mind, please respond to the following prompts.

 

Here are a few discussion starters (though feel free to come up with your own):

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

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1) I do not believe it needs a stylized approach to the entire movie I think it looks like a very interesting film and with different themes can be entertaining.

2)He has a bounce in his step and a lot of the people around him do seem to like him. He is only unlikable when he insults the one girl but even there he has a reasoning for it.

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

I don't think that Jerry Mulligan is unlikeable at all. He was very friendly to his fellow artists on the street, as he set up his paintings. Jerry was in his element in the artist's colony in Montmartre, and only became annoyed with the "third year girl" because she was a phony, acting knowledgeable when she really wasn't (using comments she may have "overheard"). To afford a 'third year' in Paris takes money, so the college junior was not poor. On the other hand, Jerry Mulligan was a struggling artist. The girl in red tried to patronize him, as a subordinate, There were issues of power there, as she looked down on his lower social status, and then offered unwanted art criticism. Jerry dismissed her with the brash direct style of an unsophsticated American - a regular guy.

Nina Foch's character, Milo, on the other hand, was at the other extreme - overly sophisticated. She was well- dressed, and a more mature lady. With age usually comes wisdom; therefore, Jerry was more open to her comments.

An Aside:

I have to say that I love the way Leslie Caron's character, Lise, pronounces his name in the film. Instead of putting the stress on the first syllable in "Mul- ligan," she placed it on the last - "Mulligan-gan," giving the Irish moniker a French twist. It is a charming bit.

 

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Minnelli's view of life, whether that life is in St Louis (as in "Meet Me In..." 1944, Technicolor), NYC (The Clock, 1945, B&W), the suburbs (Father of the Bride, 1950, B&W) or Paris (AAIP, 1951, Technicolor) was a painterly aspect. Each scene in his films is akin to a genre painting. As stated in a previous essay during this course Minnelli paid meticulous attention to set design, lighting, costumes and shot composition. All of his careful construction of a scene equally inhabits Spencer Tracy's bursting cutaway sequence in FOTB, and the fantasy ballet in AAIP.

The problem with AAIP in my view is that the ending does not match the message of the rest of the film. Kelly is a brash American (which I personally love him for) who apparently does not have a great deal of painting talent or success in his profession. His desire to be a kept man by Nina Foch is loathsome. His better nature finds Leslie Caron to be his love interest, but she already has Georges Guetary who can provide for her and be faithful to her, to make up for the sad things which have happened in her life. Kelly is not in a position to do that. The fantasy ballet is triggered by Caron's rejection of him for Guetary. When she leaves him, Kelly expresses his fantastical desire for Caron in the only way he knows how, through paintings, albeit paintings by master artists, not his own work. If the film had ended with Kelly's unfulfilled fantasy, it would have been more consistent with all of the information the audience has up until, inexplicably, Caron returns and chooses Kelly over her French fiance.  After all Kelly is a loser and the audience really isn't given any rational explanation for Caron's sudden shift in inclination. The ending is what keeps AAIP from being a masterpiece in my view. Minnelli chickened out of letting the story go in its natural direction by having the wrong man win the girl.

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?

Well, the point of the wildly beautiful and fantastic ballet is just that. It is fantasy, so everything else in the film must look more realistic compared to the finale, but that doesn't mean it has to look like the "kitchen sink" films from Britain in the late 1950's. Minnelli's use of Technicolor, costuming, and lighting to charge up AAIP is really no different than his portrayal of mid-western American life in MMISL. Some of the scenes in that film are highly stylized. For example, an early scene between Garland and Bremer in which they sing MMISL while in their undergarments has some unbelievable camera work which throws their profiles into relief in unison. Its really gorgeous. I never heard anybody suggest that other parts of the film have to display realism to counteract the magnificent musical sequences. No, the point of the ending ballet is that it is a wild artistic dream which comes true in the end. The rest of the film can be breathtaking too, even if it is merely taken up with the plot.
 
2.What keeps Jerry Mulligan from being completely unlikeable in a scene in which he acts pretty darn unlikeable?

Kelly himself is a likable actor, who can definitely play a cad. After all he was the original Pal Joey on Broadway, and you can't get more of a caddish role than that. So here Kelly is a more likable cad because the audience feels a little sorry for his lack of success in life, and his humiliation at the hands of a pretentious American college student who wants to criticize his work while he is hungry and out of smokes. When Kelly is impudent to Foch, he doesn't realize he is looking at his meal ticket. Does Foch like his paintings or does she like the cut of his jib so to speak? When Foch's expensive, chauffeur driven car pulls up, the audience realizes that these two can do business. Foch likes Kelly for his body and he likes her for her money. A perfect match.

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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 so.  The ending ballet is a fantasy and I think because of that it should be over the top and highly stylized.  I think to have that heightened a style run threw out the entire movie would take away from the effect of the fantasy sequences.  I do think however that the rest of the film should to some extent reflect the same style.  To avoid it completely in the rest of the film would I think lesson the effect.

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

I think it's because when he becomes unlikeable in the scene he has a legitimate reason for being so.  Before that point he is seen enjoying his morning walk, interacting with those he meets along the way in a friendly manner and making conversation with the others in the area when he reaches his destination.    He becomes unlikeable and harsh when dealing with someone who is basically acting superior to him.  The "third year" student is attempting to be a critic and give an opinion that wasn't asked for.  She didn't ask to or even indicate she wanted to have a conversation with him  until after she'd already irritated him.  Where as with the rich lady, she asked if she could look at his work and offer an opinion before she actually says anything about the work.  He is still somewhat rude of tone to the rich lady, but seems more accepting of her.

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While An American In Paris is stylised, it isn't excessively so. The streets look like real streets, and the café looks like a real café. Jerry and Adam's apartments look like actual "lower rent" apartments that could have existed at that time. Yes, Paris probably never looked exactly like Paris did in this film, but the settings are entirely believable and crafted with exquisite care. There isn't a jarring moment, or a sense that this is taking place on a stage or backlot, everything seems to be lived in or has been lived in. While the final ballet scene is very stylised, as with the sequence at the end of Singin' In the Rain, it is clearly a dream a sequence that expresses Jerry's pain at possibly losing the only woman he has ever loved, and also expressing all the dream like ways of Paris and how it is a place where to Jerry, anything can take place, and where many different types of people live. There is a clear distinction between Jerry's dream ballet and the Paris in which he actually lives. 

 

I think that despite Jerry perhaps being a bit brusque with the American student, he is not actually entirely unlikeable. He speaks the truth in this scene. The American student is pretentious: not only does she speak poor accented French which clearly favours her American accent rather than any attempt to adapt to French pronunciation, she also speaks to Jerry, a street painter, as if they are in a setting where art is viewed as something to picked apart by intellectual discussion rather than enjoyed.   

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

“Life’s candy and the sun’s a ball of butter.  Don’t bring around a cloud to rain on my parade.”  (from Funny Girl)

1. All musicals should be more-than-realistic.  They should take us where we can’t go ourselves: physically and emotionally.  They should leave us wanting to sing and dance through life if only as far as the car in the parking lot.  The plot and dialogue should also be heightened and mainly serve to bring us to the next number.  The actors should wear their hearts on their sleeves.  What was unfortunate about casting Ryan Gosling in La-La-Land is that he’s a subtle, understated actor (and he can’t sing or dance).  As Jeff tells Tony Hunter in The Band Wagon, “icebergs only show 1/8—I want 8/8!”  We need them to show the emotions that we must suppress to get through our day.  Some of us must pass the homeless everyday without making eye contact.  Some of us can’t quit our lousy jobs.  Some of us never tell our parents or children that we love them.  Some of us never really live because we’re too busy facing reality.  We need musicals to cry, laugh, sing and dance for us with heightened reality.  Musicals remind us that living without heart is no life at all.  And maybe it’s impossible to care about every one in the world—but maybe it’s damn worth trying to.

2. I found Gene Kelly's character to be completely likable but then, I'm from New Jersey.

 

 

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In all honesty, the stylized scene of the ballet at the end is a fantasy & should be different than the rest of the film that is much more subdued. The scenes of Paris may not have been real on location but were real enough to maintain a balance between reality & fantasy. Kelly's "Jerry" is not unlikeable. He's well liked where he lives & where he paints. Having said that, he also has no tolerance for any form of criticism, positive or negative. He makes that quite clear to both the 3rd year student who was going to discuss (really criticize) his work & the other, more sophisticated "Milo" character wanted to look at his work without the criticism. In fact, she offered to buy 2 of he paintings. That put Jerry in a better frame of mind but a tad confused or even shock in that he had never sold a painting before & here was someone who came to look but bought instead of criticizing the work. Milo, being a more sophisticated & savvy character, was onto Jerry's demeanor & knew how to deal with him. I do believe he was more accepting of her because of that sophistication (& money, something he didn't have).

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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 would think that because Minnelli understood the color palettes and tone of the film, it was a proper call to maintain the conscious styling choices throughout the entirety of the film. For the most part, he kept a bit of an embellished, stylized realism that helped to serve as a visual consistency and familiarity to the viewer.

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

The Jerry Mulligan character in the scene from the clip holds our interest as the audience member because he’s an honest straight-shooter. He’s an upfront and take-charge kind of guy and given the positioning of the roles within the nation’s culture taking shape during the post-war era, especially for a character over-seas, we see him as a strong, commanding representative of the American male in a foreign country. 

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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 ending of the film, was used more as a fantasy piece, in a way to describe Jerry's life in Paris. The sequence was over the top, but to give you a sense of a more artistic view of the city. You follow how he is looking for his dream girl. He finds her and loses her through out the dance. Thru out the film you get a glimpse of what his everyday life was like, the people he associated with.

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

Jerry character is an outsider in Paris. Even though he has adapted to the way of life, the Jersey boy will come out when you insult him. You can like someone who speaks his mind.

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Daily Dose #12

"An American in Paris" 1951 

The main players ...Gene Kelly (Jerry Mulligan) ... Leslie Caron (Lisa Bouvier) & Nina Foch (Milo Roberts)

Jerry is fast walking along a Paris street & appears to be enjoying his day greeting fellow painters along his way

He is a poor GI who decided to remain in France after his service is complete & the war is over...he tries is hand at painting b/c it is Paris & looks like everyone is a painter/artist...everyone wants to go to Paris & paint...is it any wonder that nobody can sell their work?  Too much of something has no value

The "third year girl" who Jerry has a tiff w/ must be on a scholarship or have money...her parents money most likely ...she is a bit rude to offer an unwanted critique of someone else's work...who would do that? Nobody just goes up & starts to attack ...er...critique the hard work of another painter...Jerry is older & knows this very well...he would not do it & that is why he is upset 

Nina Foch (Milo Roberts) is certainly older though she is a handsome woman & knows what she wants ....she likes Jerry...shortly thereafter she finds out that Jerry is not to be bought & that shows great character on his part

The same may be said for Lisa (Caron)...she feels obligated to marry someone she does not love b/c he saved her from a terrible fate & maybe saved her very life...this is where the conflict comes in...the wretched reality of marrying someone you do not love & will never love...she knows she will only love Jerry as soon as they meet & he will likewise only love her...this is the movie plot...conflict is in the middle ...something comes along to separate the lovers  then it is always resolved before the book or movie ends..this is a love story set to music

The dance sequences of Lisa/Caron are beautiful & of course shows her at her best...the color & her ability to do the splits...lovely...Kelly's ballet style is always present in the dance routines

The fantasy routine is blue & misty & sultry...dark & lovely...will they marry others? Will it work out for them to marry each other? The beautiful simulated rainbow arches & partial silhouettes keep us guessing...sort of

In the end Lisa & Jerry do marry for love ...not money

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Jerry Mulligan is friendly and chatty to most around him at the start of this particular scene.  Unfortunately, that's where it ends.  He blows off the American student for what appears to be no legitimate reason, and while the rest of the clip in particular doesn't make Jerry come off too badly, what happens throughout the rest of the film makes Jerry one of my least likable characters in any movie I've ever seen.

Yes, An American in Paris looks wonderful.  Yes, the dance sequences and dream sequences are beautifully stylized.  Yes, Vincente Minnelli pulled off his usual signature tricks once again.  However, personally, I find this film loathsome.  It legitimately makes me physically ill watching Jerry Mulligan act the way he does to Milo, such as that ridiculous series of actions at the club where he first sees Lisa.  Then later, the way he stalks her.  And let's not sugarcoat it, there's nothing cute about it, he flat-out stalks her.  Later scenes with Jerry and Lisa, and Jerry and Milo, and Jerry and his guy friends (remember how he crumples up a note and tosses it to the ground like a petulant child?).....blergh.  I'm sorry.  An American in Paris is in my bottom-5 of all-time Best Picture winners.  I was hoping this week's Daily Doses wouldn't include this film, but perhaps Gigi instead.  We did get a clip from that one within today's lecture notes, so that made me smile.  Now perhaps I should have some champagne...

Image result for lucy champagne gif

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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?

If Minnelli, Kelly, Edens, Freed and Lerner had decided to present a more realistic storyline throughout and then presented this dream-like ballet as the finale of the film it would have had less spiritual and artistic impact. It would have felt totally disconnected from what came before as if it was the ending of a different story. 

Kelly’s films always offer these surreal, chimerical scenes and  bits of storytelling within a more workaday plot. His films embody a soulfulness which would have suffered if we were going along throughout with our feet firmly planted on the ground but then suddenly found ourselves swooped into the stratosphere in the last ten minutes. He was an artist of the first caliber and so a romantic at heart. Romantic not so much as a sexual device though there is that but rather romantic in the sense of an idealism, of perfection in an imperfect world.

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

He is friendly and amiable with his fellow artists even engaging in a friendly conversation with an artist set up across from him prior to his scene with Noel Neill (the original Lois Lane from the 50s TV show). Further, he explains to Milo his reaction to the, “third year girls” and it is plausible and relatable. Who enjoys to have their endeavors criticized especially by those without expertise or true conviction? 

Also, he warms to Milo when she presents herself on friendly terms. He allows himself, though still cynically cautious, to meet her as an equal. He allows her a small peek under his suit of armor into the truth of his situation. He is broke, a true “starving artist” even needing to bum a cigarette from her.  He doesn’t even know how much to charge her for his paintings. He has given up hope of selling them.

He doesn’t come across as much unlikable in this scene as he does road weary. He is frustrated expecting to be in a better situation by now than the one he presently finds himself in. And so he is blunt and sardonic. All artists at some point find themselves feeling vulnerable to the whims of their public. That is more what I sense in this scene.

 

Note: I apologize for the size of type in my response. I used a note taking app to write my response and this was the result. I will not be using that app again.

 
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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 necessarily since the end ballet is clearly in Jerry’s imagination. As an artist who has chosen to try his luck in Paris, he has studied the great French artists whose work shows up in the ballet. It does make sense, though, that the mise-en-scene has a painterly feeling throughout the film and that music interweaves with action and dialogue as it does at the beginning of this opening scene.

2.    What keeps Jerry Mulligan from being completely unlikeable in a scene in which he acts pretty darn unlikeable? Jerry represents post-war American confidence and cockiness. We can tell from his interactions with these two women that he hasn’t sold any of his paintings yet and that he’s had a lot of college students criticize his work – no wonder he’s impatient with Noel Neill. His jaunty, optimistic walk up the sidewalks in time to the Gershwin music endears us to him (and the fact that he’s Gene Kelly as our protagonist). And for all his cockiness, he comes across as an innocent when it comes to Milo’s elegant-but-predatory style (“What do you care?”).

Gene Kelly.jpg

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1. I don't think that the whole movie needs to be a stylized extravaganza but it is.  

  • If we look back at The Wizard of Oz, the transition from sepia to color and back to sepia at the end of the movie makes Oz seem more magical. A lot of this movie could have been less stylized but I feel like we are being prepped for something bigger - the ballet sequence. It's the "Oz" of the film and it ties together what this artist secretly longs for - recognition & appreciation of the work and perhaps even a legacy. We are stepping in and out of some of the greatest art and most iconic art in a 3 dimensional way. 
  • Gene Kelly is a dancer even though here he plays a painter yet the simple art of walking seems like choreography. That too feels like I'm being prepped for the big dance sequence.
  • The film is "An American..." so although everything is shrouded in French culture - cafes, croissants, etc. the music that drives the movie is purely American - big, brash and bold...similar to Jerry Mulligan.

2. We can tell a lot about Jerry in this scene.

  • Just the name "Jerry Mulligan" should tell us that he is just a regular guy. It's "Jerry" and not Jerome (perhaps). A Mulligan is a stew - a mixed bag of sorts that is blended together. In golf a Mulligan is an extra shot allowed after a really poor one. It's designed to give the golfer a chance. On name alone I could figure him out. Don't know if this was intentional. 
  • He walks up to Montmartre to sell his paintings. Along the way he acknowledges other artists but with appraising looks as if to judge their work. He shrugs his shoulders, raises his eyebrows and just keeps bouncing along. At a point where someone comes along, in this case the "3rd year girl who grites my liver," he is openly hostile and closed to any attempts at talking about his work. Is his the only one who can judge what he does? Is his hostile to someone he knows he can frighten off? When Milo saunters over -  tall and dressed to the 9s - he knows he's out of her league. He has to take a step back and defend himself when she makes a comment about having her head bit off. The language of the college coed ("I can understand disregarding perspective...) vs Milo ("You know, these paintings are good...) is a real contrast of how women are presented to him.  His ego makes his decisions.
  • He comes off as the bold, brash, egotistical, American alpha male who thinks he is owed something more that he has. He sees himself full of charm. He's the best looking guy around. He's "An American in Paris" and thinks in that American way that Paris should come to him.
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Lets not gloss over Minnelli placing a caricature of "Winnie" Churchill painting still-life on a Parisian street.  Even "Mulligan" does a double-take. 

The interaction of Kelly with the "art" student and followed by his confronation with Nina Foch is a continuation of Hollywood's attempts to contrast between the class struggle that was being played out in American politics.  No doubt Kelly's Mulligan is an example of the Proletariat contrast with the ruling Bourgeoisie.  And art is a great example of both the struggle and the eventual outcome with the Proletariat dependent on the capital provided by the Bourgeoisie.  But at what price?  In An American in Paris, Kelly choses love and soul.   

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1-The beauty and brilliance of the "American In Paris" ballet is compounded by the fact that it is purposefully set apart from the rest of the film. The reveal of the fantasy world, the "dream world" created through Jerry's painting and seen through his eyes is exactly what establishes its magic. Of course it is important to clarify that the film itself IS stylized through the eyes of Minnelli, he used a soundstage as a canvas for a Paris inspired filmic painting, but the style is separated from that of the amazing ballet closing. The ballet uses costumes, characters, and lighting as the primary artistic elements, very simple backgrounds to allow those things to "pop", where the rest of the film does almost the exact opposite, the sets, the buildings, the Seine, the paintings in the background are what makes Paris..Paris.

2-It is true that Mulligan presents some potentially unlikable qualities in this scene, so why do we like him? If we look at the opening scene of the film, the one that establishes our lead and who he is, we get a perfectly choreographed opening where a simple man lives in a ridiculously small apartment, a commoner, not rich, not fancy, an artist doing his best to get by in his tiny surroundings, so that right there gives us empathy, he should be struggling but he makes the best of his meagre surroundings. In the scene in question itself, we get an "average joe" just trying to do his best, he is immediately questioned by a faux-intellectual, she presents as instantly snobby so we dislike her and lose the focus on him, he dismisses her hastily, with cause, and then softens when treated in a more friendly manner by Milo. Also, sidebar, it's Gene Kelly, we love him because...he's Gene Kelly! That charm is there no matter what he says or does!

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Jerry Mulligan is the narrator in the film, so we naturally see things from his perspective.  Most audiences trust a narrator rather than question intentions or credibility. He's already told us he is a veteran of the war (WWII), so he has won the audience over in that regard. He's won us over, so to speak, when he demonstrates his cranky side as an artist.  He is presented as a starving artist who is mediocre, but he's willing to go without to pursue his dream. This is revealed in his not having prices prepared for transactions, not having cigarettes, and his realization that he should have charged more.  He's not in it for the money.

Additionally, other artists embrace him, cheerfully greet him, and generally accept him, so he's been at this and the French accept him -- signaling he is not a brash American to them. Yesterday, I complained about the anti-intellectualism in the scene with the professor in Singing in the Rain that involves the song "Moses Supposes."  However, here, we have Paris, which many consider the cradle of art.  Intellectualism is part of the air, so Kelly's snobbery about brash Americans has been earned. Besides he is paying the price to be able to judge them. He's taken his vow of poverty to be a priest to the arts -- even if he's terrible. 

Visually, Vincente Minnelli presents Kelly in shadow, beneath, or in the background to when he is criticizing the women or saying something impolite. The angles and lighting focus on the women, and he is not only visually in the servile position but literally dependent on them in the transactional relationship between an artist and a potential customer. He isn't in the power position with these ladies -- which undercuts his surliness. Minnelli presents an entirely American protagonist following his dream damn the consequences -- even if it is in Paris. This makes him sympathetic to the audience. 

I adore An American in Paris. Everything about it except that it is shot in Culver City.  Minnelli does a great job of recreating it, though. The city is a character in this musical, like New York City or Saint Louis. The stylized portions of the film allow Minnelli to bring in more fantastic imaginings of Americans' perceptions of Paris including many artistic homages in the ballet sequence to famous paintings and Parisian historical figures. I particularly like the employment of so much Lautrec. Quite literally, Kelly and Minnelli bring paintings to life, but they are always in dream sequences or in the mind (as is the case of the montage describing Lisa in the beginning). With Levant's masterful scene, we have a dream sequence of epic proportions with him being every performer in the orchestra, every viewer, etc. Then he comes back to reality and takes a Coca-Cola from the champagne bucket on his piano.  This pin prick of the fantasy buts us back squarely in reality. AAIP grounds the movie in the daily routines of the Paris street, cafe, boarding house, and dive bar. It works vey well using both styles to fully play out what people fantasize about when "Paris" comes to mind. 

Who doesn't want to be at a fabulous black and white ball in Paris under the moonlight? Who doesn't want to run to their lover up/down the stairs to an embrace of passion in Paris? To keep America on top for his 50s audience, Minnelli deftly brings the Parisian girl to the robust American man, who  -- though eschewing financial interests as most successful American males value in the role of provider -- is preferable too the Parisian nightclub singer who hasn't let Lisa know she's sexy.  This feeds the idea of America at the top of its game in Gene Kelly, the American, being a better lover than the Parisian man who hasn't even let Lisa know she's pretty.  If we recall Maurice Chevalier's character in The Love Parade, we know most certainly that Parisians are sophisticated lovers. An American in Paris turns this on its head. That is true artistic license that allows an American to triumph at Paris's own game, as the city of love, which would have set a 50s audience at ease.

The sequences in this movie are superlative. We've seen many dream sequences with Kelly and Astaire work well with more grounded portions of movies.  It is something La La Land called upon for its ability to be both fantastic and real. It is why we have the cliche of a dream sequence in which we dance romantically with a lover in a perfect Astaire/Rodgers sequence -- because musicals play with fantasy within reality. 

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I don't think that the stylized ballet at the end has either a distraction or any attracting features to the movie. It is in the imagination of Kelly. 

He shows that he has a lot of friends among the art community and it is only when this third year girl comes into the scene that he gets nasty. He doesn't think that she has the learning to talk about someones paintings and say so to her.  Otherwise he is a very likable person.

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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?  Minnelli perhaps thought that sprinkling the "reality" throughout the film would provide the viewer with the ability to enjoy the fantasy scenes, such as the ballet without them being entirely over the top.

What keeps Jerry Mulligan from being completely unlikable in a scene in which he acts pretty darn unlikable?  His interaction with the fellow artist further up the hill, as well as with the Nina Foch character set Jerry up as a likable guy.  His meanness only comes out when the 3rd year student attempts to demean his work. A typical response from any one of us.

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1. I don’t think it needs a more realistic approach at the end of the film.  Through the vivid colors, different scenes and the music it allows the viewer a overall view of Paris. The ballet is what Minnelli and Kelly interrupt for Gershwin’s American In Paris. Quite frankly to me this is the best part of the film. It doesn’t need in dialogue but you can feel what Gershwin meant with his music. 

2. Jerry really isn’t an unlikeable guy. You can see that in his interaction with the other artists, the woman at the cafe and finally with the second woman viewing his work. He try’s to be that way with the first woman when she try’s to give her opinion of his work.  He’s obviously had discussions/interaction with others in the past and found them pointless and not very useful with his art. 

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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 ballet scene was a fantasy so it’s use of a less realistic approach felt completely natural as much as can be for a fantasy  

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

I think it’s eassier for someone who understands his cockiness and brisk character traits to move past a criticism of his character. I found him funny and in a way endearing and if I hadn’t already seen the movie, which I have, I would be waiting for his softer side to emerge. But I can also see how some may have the opposite impression, especially with the first Lady that comes along. But if you take in all the surroundings and even his apparel and let all of that work on you I think his unlikeable traits fade quickly if you had them at all  

 

 

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9 hours ago, AcademeWriter said:

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

I don't think that Jerry Mulligan is unlikeable at all. He was very friendly to his fellow artists on the street, as he set up his paintings. Jerry was in his element in the artist's colony in Montmartre, and only became annoyed with the "third year girl" because she was a phony, acting knowledgeable when she really wasn't (using comments she may have "overheard"). To afford a 'third year' in Paris takes money, so the college junior was not poor. On the other hand, Jerry Mulligan was a struggling artist. The girl in red tried to patronize him, as a subordinate, There were issues of power there, as she looked down on his lower social status, and then offered unwanted art criticism. Jerry dismissed her with the brash direct style of an unsophsticated American - a regular guy.

Nina Foch's character, Milo, on the other hand, was at the other extreme - overly sophisticated. She was well- dressed, and a more mature lady. With age usually comes wisdom; therefore, Jerry was more open to her comments.

An Aside:

I have to say that I love the way Leslie Caron's character, Lise, pronounces his name in the film. Instead of putting the stress on the first syllable in "Mul- ligan," she placed it on the last - "Mulligan-gan," giving the Irish moniker a French twist. It is a charming bit.

 

I agree he isn't dislikable at all and outlined similar reasons as well as showed how they did take some snooty (he earned his snoot) behavior on his part and make it likable. I also adore everything about Leslie Caron, period. In all ways. I'll have to hear her voice to see if I agree with them dubbing her in Gigi. Kelly is also the bee's knees as far as I am concerned. He may have one note, in general, but that note is pure bliss.

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3 hours ago, A Ryan Seacrest Type said:

Jerry Mulligan is friendly and chatty to most around him at the start of this particular scene.  Unfortunately, that's where it ends.  He blows off the American student for what appears to be no legitimate reason, and while the rest of the clip in particular doesn't make Jerry come off too badly, what happens throughout the rest of the film makes Jerry one of my least likable characters in any movie I've ever seen.

Yes, An American in Paris looks wonderful.  Yes, the dance sequences and dream sequences are beautifully stylized.  Yes, Vincente Minnelli pulled off his usual signature tricks once again.  However, personally, I find this film loathsome.  It legitimately makes me physically ill watching Jerry Mulligan act the way he does to Milo, such as that ridiculous series of actions at the club where he first sees Lisa.  Then later, the way he stalks her.  And let's not sugarcoat it, there's nothing cute about it, he flat-out stalks her.  Later scenes with Jerry and Lisa, and Jerry and Milo, and Jerry and his guy friends (remember how he crumples up a note and tosses it to the ground like a petulant child?).....blergh.  I'm sorry.  An American in Paris is in my bottom-5 of all-time Best Picture winners.  I was hoping this week's Daily Doses wouldn't include this film, but perhaps Gigi instead.  We did get a clip from that one within today's lecture notes, so that made me smile.  Now perhaps I should have some champagne...

Your post has made me rethink Gene Kelly's screen persona a bit. Although I don't think he comes off quite as badly as you state here, he does border on aggressive. What redeems him is that we know that he is Gene Kelly and we know that An American in Paris is a musical meant to be fun and escapist. Without that knowledge, Leslie Caron's character has every reason to want to avoid him, and you might be right about Kelly's behavior being menacing.

In many of Kelly's films, he starts out as a cad and is redeemed by his love for a good woman. He just might be his most disagreeable to start when it comes to An American in Paris.

Thank you for your post. I still love most Gene Kelly films (just can't like Brigadoon, no matter what I know about its background and production!), but I'll have to watch many of them again with a slightly different perspective.

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