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An American in Paris(1951)
One of the greatest of 1950s screen musicals is a happy collaboration between the grace and athleticism of Gene Kelly and colourful palette of Vincente Minnelli. An American G.I. lingers in Paris after the war to study painting and soon falls in love with Caron, an engaged mademoiselle, much to the chagrin of his romance-minded benefactress. Features a seventeen- minute, avant-garde ballet choreographed by Kelly to George Gershwin's unbeatable melodies. Academy Award Nominations: 8, including Best Director. Academy Awards: 6, including Best Picture, Best Story and Screenplay. Kelly won a special Oscar for his achievements.
For more about An American in Paris and the An American in Paris Blu-ray release, see An American in Paris Blu-ray Review published by Kenneth Brown on March 27, 2009 where this Blu-ray release scored 4.0 out of 5.
Director: Vincente Minnelli
Writer: Alan Jay Lerner
Starring: Gene Kelly, Leslie Caron, Oscar Levant, Georges Guetary, Nina Foch, Noel Neill
» See full cast & crew
An American in Paris Blu-ray Review
A joyous but superficial celebration of life and love...
Reviewed by Kenneth Brown, March 27, 2009
I've been mulling over a few mysteries since watching the 81st Annual Academy Awards earlier this year. How exactly did Danny Boyle's Slumdog Millionaire vault ahead of its weighty brethren to nab Best Picture? How did a comeback shoe-in like Mickey Rourke lose his shot at Oscar gold? Were The Dark Knight's comicbook roots the only thing that held it back from earning more nominations? Strangely enough, the all-too-simple answer to each question came to me while I was watching director Vincente Minnelli's An American in Paris, a 1951 MGM musical that received critical acclaim for its parade of popular George Gershwin songs, pulled in six Academy Awards, and managed to establish itself as a relative classic over the years. In a time of socioeconomic uncertainty, audiences respond to films that offer hope instead of dread, elation instead of depression, and idealism instead of cynicism.
Loosely based on Gershwin's renowned 1928 symphonic composition of the same name, An American in Paris introduces a former United States Army soldier named Jerry Mulligan (Gene Kelly) who decides to take up residence in France at the end of WWII and live out his life as a Parisian artist. While there, he has to navigate the affections of a wealthy American patron named Milo (Nina Foch), inadvertently falls in love with a beautiful young perfume-shop clerk named Lise (Leslie Caron), and struggles with the knowledge that she is engaged to an older man (Georges Guétary). When each person's feelings are eventually revealed, the lovelorn individuals have to come to terms with the truth of their situations. The plot doesn't get much more complicated than that -- its underdeveloped characters and rather cliché dialogue suggests the story is merely a tool used to transport the audience from one song to the next -- but Gershwin's sublimely stirring music, Kelly's astounding talent, and the film's climactic dance sequence give this classic more oomph than one might expect.
Chances are you already know if An American in Paris is the kind of catalog classic you'll enjoy or pass over. It certainly doesn't offer anything that will lure in modern filmfans who despise similar productions -- especially seeing as its quaint and dated sensibilities scream 1951 in every shot and frame -- but those who are able to overlook bland storytelling and seemingly-ancient performances will find Gershwin's songs and musical arrangements are strong enough to impress regardless of the era. Even though I had never seen the film before, I practically knew every song Minnelli and Kelly (sounds like a bad '80s band) tossed into the mix. I suppose it's a testament to the timeless nature of Gershwin's work, but I was still surprised that such sappy, syrupy relics have endured the decades and established themselves firmly in our cultural consciousness.
Very little about An American in Paris made me want to mount a revival campaign or sing its praises. Unlike tragically-overlooked catalog gems like The Sand Pebbles, I was neither wooed by its plodding story nor overcome by the desire to recommend it to anyone other than its target audience. I would wager An American in Paris will only appeal to those who would grab for its case at the mere sight of its throwback cover art. Give it a shot if you're enamored by the period, its musicals, or Hollywood productions of yesteryear. Otherwise, move along and find something more geared towards your tastes.
An American in Paris Blu-ray, Video Quality
I may not have been smitten with the film itself, but I was quite taken by the results of Warner's extensive, Ultra-Resolution restoration efforts. Presented with a gorgeous, accurately-framed 1080p/VC-1 transfer, An American in Paris joins a handful of other notable Warner classics as one of the best-looking catalog releases on the market. Lush colors, vivid primaries, deep blacks, and revealing delineation give the picture a stable, three-dimensional appearance. Contrast is bright and inviting, noise and artifacting are non-existent, and the film's mild grain field is consistent and unobtrusive. Detail is excellent as well -- edges are well defined (without any significant edge enhancement on hand to detract from the integrity of the original presentation), on-screen text is crisp and clear, and textures are quite refined considering the age of the print. Sure, some soft shots pop up throughout the flick, but each one struck me as the product of the filmstock rather than the technical transfer. Likewise, skin textures are a bit indistinct every now and then, but it appears to be due to overzealous makeup applications rather than the use of digital noise reduction. If I have any complaint, it's that fleshtones sometimes look slightly flushed and oversaturated.
Minor gripes aside, I can't imagine An American in Paris will ever look much better than it does here. Faithfully restored, wonderfully detailed, exquisitely colored, and meticulously presented, Warner has once again proven they have the ability to completely transform withering classics into rejuvenated masterpieces.
An American in Paris Blu-ray, Audio Quality
Similar to Warner's recent release of Quo Vadis, the Blu-ray edition of An American in Paris only includes a standard Dolby Digital presentation of the film's original mono track -- there aren't any lossless, uncompressed, or 5.1 surround remixes to be found. Still, it's not necessarily a bad thing... especially when Warner's restoration process has been applied to the film's audio as well. Even though its single-channel presentation doesn't create any semblance of a soundfield or immersive experience, dialogue is intelligible and well prioritized, bass tones still sound somewhat decent (albeit without the assistance of the LFE channel), and the various musical numbers are deceptively fuller than I expected. Granted, there are leveling inconsistencies and instabilities scattered throughout the track, but I found myself shrugging off such shortcomings the moment I considered the film's age. Ultimately, An American in Paris isn't going to convert anyone with its sonic prowess, but it will please purists looking for an authentic restoration of the film's original audio.
An American in Paris Blu-ray, Special Features and Extras
The Blu-ray edition of An American in Paris serves up a healthy collection of supplemental material that will definitely attract fans of the film to this new release. Most of the content is presented in standard definition (always a downer), but the scope and depth of the package more than makes up for it.
An American in Paris Blu-ray, Overall Score and Recommendation
An American in Paris isn't the sort of film I'd usually set aside two hours to watch, but its new Blu-ray release is worth the attention of anyone who would. It features a stunning restoration and video transfer, a solid presentation of the film's original mono track, and a well-rounded collection of supplements that adds a lot of value to the disc. If you're a fan of Gene Kelly classics or other notable musicals of the period, you won't be disappointed.
An American in Paris: Other Editions
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