on 8 May 2013
AN AMERICAN IN PARIS  [Blu-ray] [US Import] An Altogether Delightful Musical Holiday! What A Joy To See M-G-M’s Technicolor Musical!
Gene Kelly, producer Arthur Fred, director Vincente Minnelli and a skilled production team conjure an entertainment for the ages. Gene Kelly plays an ex-GI who loves Paris and an alluring [but engaged] perfume-shop clerk [Leslie Caron] in her beguiling screen debut. Dazzling dance sequences are spun around songs by George Gershwin. And the closing ballet sequence combining the George Gershwin title piece, Impressionist set styling's and Gene Kelly's inimitable talent telling a story in dance and lifts this winner of 6 Academy Awards® to new heights and especially now this Blu-ray has had a New Ultra-resolution Digital transfer!
FILM FACT: Awards and Nominations: Academy Awards®: Win: Best Picture for Arthur Freed [Producer]. Win: Best Art and Set Decoration, Colour for E. Preston Ames, Cedric Gibbons, F. Keogh Gleason, and Edwin B. Willis. Win: Best Cinematography and Colour for John Alton and Alfred Gilks. Win: Best Costume Design and Colour for Orry-Kelly, Walter Plunkett, and Irene Sharaff. Win: Best Musical Score for Saul Chaplin and Johnny Green. Win: Best Writing, Scoring and Screenplay for Alan Jay Lerner. Nominated: Best Director for Vincente Minnelli. Nominated: Best Film Editing for Adrienne Fazan. Golden Globe® Awards: Win: Best Motion Picture in a Musical or Comedy. Nominated: Best Director in a Motion Picture for Vincente Minnelli. Nominated: Best Actor in a Motion Picture Musical or Comedy for Gene Kelly. Gene Kelly received an Academy Honorary Award that year for "his versatility as an actor, singer, director and dancer, and specifically for his brilliant achievements in the art of choreography on film." It was his only Oscar.
Cast: Gene Kelly, Leslie Caron, Oscar Levant, Georges Guétary, Nina Foch, The American In Paris Ballet (Ballet Dancers), Robert Ames (uncredited), Marie Antoinette Andrews (uncredited), Felice Basso (uncredited), Rodney Bieber (uncredited), Ann Brendon (uncredited), Ralph Del Campo (uncredited), Sue Casey (uncredited), Andre Charisse (uncredited), Allan Cook (uncredited), Ralph Del Campo (uncredited), Gloria DeWerd (uncredited), Carli Elinor (uncredited), Marietta Elliott (uncredited), George Ellsworth (uncredited), Luigi Faccuito (uncredited), Ernie Flatt (uncredited), Mary Jane French (uncredited), Mary Ellen Gleason (uncredited), Shirley Glickman (uncredited), Ricardo Gonzáles (uncredited), Patricia Hall (uncredited), Betty Hannon (uncredited), Jack Harmon (uncredited), Jean Harrison (uncredited), Marian Horosko (uncredited), Don Hulbert (uncredited), Dickie Humphreys (uncredited), Harvey Karels (uncredited), Stephen Kirchner (uncredited), Tommy Ladd (uncredited), Judy Landon (uncredited), Richard Landry (uncredited), Meredith Leeds (uncredited), Eileen Locklin (uncredited), Shirley Lopez (uncredited), Ralph Madlener (uncredited), Bert Madrid (uncredited), Dudley Field Malone (uncredited), Bob Mascagno (uncredited), Charles Mauu (uncredited), Bonnie Menzies (uncredited), Roy Ossorio (uncredited), Jetsy Parker (uncredited), Ricky Ricardi (uncredited), Carol Risser (uncredited), Marilyn Rogers (uncredited), Jean Romaine (uncredited), Alex Romero (uncredited), Hayden Rorke (uncredited), Albert Ruiz (uncredited), Marilyn Russell (uncredited), Betty Scott (uncredited), Linda Scott (uncredited), Rudolph Silva (uncredited), Pat Simms (uncredited), Melba Snowden (uncredited), John Stanley (uncredited), Beverly Thompson Dorothy Tuttle (uncredited), Pat Volasko (uncredited), Dorothy Ward (uncredited), Ray Weamer (uncredited) and Lila Zali (uncredited)
Director: Vincente Minnelli
Producer: Arthur Freed and Roger Edens (uncredited)
Screenplay: Alan Jay Lerner
Composers: George Gershwin and Ira Gershwin (lyrics) and Conrad Salinger (uncredited)
Cinematography: Alfred Gilks and John Alton (Ballet)
Video Resolution: 1080p [Technicolor]
Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
Audio: English: 1.0 Dolby Digital Mono, 1.0 French: Dolby Digital Mono, Spanish: 1.0 Dolby Digital Mono, German: 1.0 Dolby Digital Mono and Italian: 1.0 Dolby Digital Mono
Subtitles: English, French, Spanish, Portuguese, German, Danish, Dutch, Finnish, Italian, Norwegian and Swedish
Running Time: 113 minutes
Region: All Regions
Number of discs: 1
Studio: Warner Home Video
Andrew's Blu-ray Review: ‘An American in Paris’  is one of the greatest, most elegant, and most celebrated of M-G-M's 1950's musicals, with Gershwin lyrics and musical score, plus lyrics by Ira and music by composer George from some of their compositions of the 1920s and 1930s, lavish sets and costumes, tremendous Technicolor cinematography, and a romantic love story set to music and dance. Gene Kelly served as the film's principal star, singer, athletically-exuberant dancer and energetic choreographer and he even directed the sequence surrounding "Embraceable You." The entire film glorifies the joie de vivre of Paris, but it was shot on M-G-M's sound stages in California, except for a few opening, establishing shots of the scenic city. Nonetheless, it remains one of the most optimistic American films of the post-war period, with Paris at its centre.
If you've heard of `An American in Paris,' then you already know that it's one of the top musicals ever made and one of the artistic high points in the history of the M-G-M studio. In the production unit of Arthur Freed, M-G-M bankrolled a concentration of musical and dancing talent that no smaller organisation could possibly have put together; it's one of the truly persuasive arguments in favour of the old studio system.
Inspired by the music of George and Ira Gershwin, Arthur Freed put his most creative talent into this one entertainment. The ambitious Vincente Minnelli was a meticulous design-oriented director, while the energetic star and choreographer Gene Kelly was hooked on the idea of blending dance and cinema into new, unseen forms. One of the film's highlights is its impressive finale - an ambitious, colourful, imaginative, 13 minute avant-garde "dream ballet" costing a half million dollars to produce. The pretentious sequence, featuring an Impressionistic period daydream in the style of various painters, is one of the longest uninterrupted dance sequences of any Hollywood film, and features the music of George Gershwin. Gene Kelly and John Alton collaborated in presenting a totally remarkable marathon musical and dance number that was the first for both of them to work in Technicolor.
Hollywood attempts at artistic achievement have often been met with indifference, even when they succeed. Film historians point to the "cinematic" ballet in Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger's `The Red Shoes' as an important precedent; many dance critics had little use for it as well. Hollywood films were expected to be escapism first and art "maybe;" Vincente Minnelli and Arthur Freed took a big risk with their consciously "arty" ballet finale.
That America accepted and celebrated `An American in Paris' perhaps marks the highpoint of post-war optimism, a time just before the anxieties of those years claimed a big piece of the culture. Alan Jay Lerner's script is as simple as any of M-G-M's formula musicals. Ex-GI Jerry Mulligan [Gene Kelly] tries to become a painter in an idealised post-war Paris that still loves Americans. He lives in the same building as Adam Cook [Oscar Levant], a pianist-slacker who lives from fellowship to fellowship grant. Mulligan meets two women on the same day. Well-heeled Baltimore divorcée Milo Roberts [Nina Foch] offers to sponsor Jerry's art, but is really looking for a new man to keep. Jerry's eye instead goes to the young Parisian Lise Bouvier [Leslie Caron]. He falls in love almost immediately. The problem is that Lise is engaged to successful singer Henri Baurel [Georges Guétary], a close associate of Adam. Jerry Mulligan's Yankee sense of humour helps win Lise's heart, but she feels too indebted to Henri to let him down.
A strong story is often irrelevant to a classic M-G-M musical. The important factors are the music, the talent and the treatment of the musical numbers. Paris glides from one jubilant George Gershwin winner to the next, none of which repeat a mood. Jerry, Adam and Henri celebrate friendship with "By Strauss" and dancing with the fat barmaid and an ancient, but cheerful lady bystander. Jerry has fun playing with the neighbourhood kids with the song "I Got Rhythm;" the kids seem genuinely amused. Georges Guétary belts out a flashy Follies Bergére type song called "I'll Build a Stairway to Paradise", while the egotistical Adam daydreams of triumph as a concert pianist performing "Concerto in F for Piano and Orchestra." Jerry and Lise's key romantic tune is "Our Love is Here to Stay."
`An American in Paris' is a beloved title and many fans appreciate its artistry. Most of the other top M-G-M musicals display a broader streak of comedy, and the supposed 'best musical of all time 'Singin' in the Rain' is wittier, more complex and even has relevance as an account of Hollywood history. Oscar Levant's forced cynicism plays against the mood, as the show never makes a full statement about artistic vagabonds. The sentiment and heart in Paris is really a fusion between the personalities and the music. Leslie Caron's perky smile and laugh are winning but she seems truly heartbroken only when backed by Gershwin. It's less a variety musical than a romantic fusion.
Gene Kelly's performance in the big `An American in Paris Ballet' integrates dance and music so closely together that he seems to personify the spirit of George Gershwin. Busby Berkeley and to some extent Michael Powell's big dance extravaganzas made the camera an active participant in the flow of music and dance, but Kelly's choreography unites music, dance camera and performance into a seemingly living entity. Add to that John Alton's intense colour lighting (with difficult, choreographed lighting changes) and the Ballet may be the most complicated dance ever put on film. It's an almost perfect collaboration. Vincente Minnelli's spectacular design motifs here are in much better balance. The ballet progresses through a parade of classic painting styles that mimic artists like Utrillo, Renoir and Van Gogh.
Perhaps the best compliment for the Ballet is that it does full justice to George Gershwin. The music stands alone as a supremely emotional experience, and the Ballet only heightens it. There's none of the oddball mismatches of music and visuals that one remembers from certain segments in Fantasia. `An American in Paris' is Hollywood filmmaking worthy of superlatives.
Blu-ray Video Quality – The video quality on this Blu-ray release is in a full 1080p encoded image in the 1.33:1 aspect ratio. The first thing that will catch your eye with this release obviously, is that residual 1950′s Technicolor looks. Perhaps it was the intention, but I do have to say at several points in the film the colour palette goes from harsh to seriously intense, not by any means "popping" off the screen in a pleasing manner. Now, don't get me wrong, scenes doused in neutrals from the wardrobe to the set design actually look very nice, though there is still the subject of the flesh tones existent. The flesh tones harbour the most blush-esque of bright orange hues, and this look continues through the entire film, fluctuating in that Technicolor way you've seen on other elder classics, as an actor moves across the screen passing the horizontal flickers all shades of the palette alternate in tones. The blaring colour palette is heightened by the definite solid black level; so solid, some scenes in which actors are clothed in an abundance of black actually gives them an appearance of animation. This solid black level may be dead on, but it tends to bring out the hard-core saturation, which is often bleeding with more bold hues, creating a near glare at the presence of such vividness, and more importantly, taking away the presence of detail. The late Gene Kelly had an extremely expressive face, and though it needs to be understood that this film has endured some aging, much of the detail of facial features is absent; this quality also applies to all other visual definition aspects of the film, from the costumes, to the set design as well. A good example of this is at the runtime of about 32 minutes and 20 seconds, where Milo is wearing an open back dress, and the scene involves some shots from behind her. Where we would normally see the contours of the shoulder blades, the bleeding/pixilation and harsh colour saturation make the visible flesh tone of her back appear as one smooth piece. Overall, you have to give credit where it is due, and it is evident that this release is what it is with special efforts, as are most classic catalogue titles that have made their way to Blu-ray recently. Keep in mind that when you see this film on Blu-ray what you are seeing was created by filmmakers over 50 years ago, and through so many different processes, this will be the best presentation you can own at this time. Purists will also surely be proud, as this release hasn't gone through significant changes, still possessing many qualities that will keep it in a very original form. Though, when comparing a film from this era to others of the genre that have made their way to Blu-ray.
Blu-ray Audio Quality – The audio quality on this release is presented in 1.0 Dolby Digital Mono. It was a great choice on behalf of Warner Bros. to stick with the original mono track for this films Blu-ray release, providing a more sincere, and realistic experience connecting to a time long past, not to mention the film's content that is present would have made for a label of "overkill" if a more voluminous track had been included. There are just a few issues that occur on this audio track though. Occasionally, there is hissing present, usually during a pause in a musical number. Also, at least 2 to 3 times during the abundance of tap dancing that occurs throughout the film, the sounds of "tapping" are out of sync with what we see happening visually. On a more positive note, all of the vocals are carried out nicely, and shouts and emphasized vocals have a bit of an acoustic quality. Overall, this audio track suits the film in a justifying manner.
Blu-ray Special Features and Extras:
Audio Commentary: Commentary by Patricia Ward Kelly: Featuring rare, often previously unheard interviews with Gene Kelly, Vincente Minnelli, Arthur Freed, Alan Jay Lerner, Johnny Green, Saul Chaplin, Michael Feinstein, Preston Ames, and Irene Sharaff and new observations by Leslie Caron and Nina Foch: A patchwork track hosted by Patricia Ward Kelly that features rare interview segments with director Vincente Minnelli, stars Gene Kelly, Nina Foch, and Leslie Caron, and other key members of the cast and crew like producer Arthur Freed, screenwriter Alan Jay Lerner, co-musical directors Johnny Green and Saul Chaplin, musician Michael Feinstein, art director Preston Ames, and costume designer Irene Sharaff. The nature of the commentary makes for an uneven listen, but the enormity of the interviews on hand allows for the participants to cover the gamut of the production and for the disc's producers to be selective about the quality of all the information therein.
Special Feature: 'S Wonderful: The Making of An American in Paris  [1080p] [42:00] This documentary features new interviews, including Leslie Caron and Nina Foch. This recently produced behind-the-scenes documentary digs into George Gershwin's original work, the genesis of the cinematic adaptation, casting, the shoot, and the eventual reception of the film.
Special Feature: American Masters: Gene Kelly: Anatomy of a Dancer  [89:00] This PBS documentary from the American Masters series focuses on Gene Kelly, his career, and his contributions to the film and its genre. It looks in detail at the life, the work, and the contributions of Gene Kelly to movies and movie making. The film celebrates Kelly's putting story-telling into dance and discovering, along with Martha Graham and Jerome Robbins, an American style. It examines his partnership with Stanley Dolan, his bringing of tap and ballet into musicals, his marriages and personal competitiveness, his political views, and his work on stage as well as in film. This production details his contributions as a dancer, choreographer, and director. The narration and talking heads also discuss his muscular style, his low centre of gravity, and his masculine appeal.
Special Feature: Vintage James FitzPatrick Traveltalks Short: Paris on Parade [9:00] A vintage musical segment from James FitzPatrick Traveltalks that focuses on a 1937 The Paris Exhibition. The Paris Exposition is seen as one of the most important events to take place in 1937 if only because it brought together forty-four nations side-by-side in goodwill. The Expo took place along the banks of the Seine, using many existing landmarks. Each national pavilion was provided and designed by the country in question, symbolizing some important aspect of that country. Pavilions of French colonies were also well represented. Lighter fare at the Expo included demonstrations of water skiing on the Seine, performances of cultural dances native to specific countries, and the on-going spectacle of the Fountain of Peace located at the base of the Eiffel Tower.
Special Feature: Classic Cartoon: Symphony in Slang  [7:00] `Symphony in Slang' is a Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer cartoon short directed by Tex Avery and written by Rich Hogan. It tells the story of a man John Brown, who finds himself at the Pearly Gates explaining the story of his life to a bewildered Saint Peter and Noah Webster using slang of that era. The majority of the short is made up of sight gags based on Peter and Webster's imagined, literal understandings of such phrases as "I was born with a silver spoon in my mouth" and "Outside it was raining cats and dogs."
Special Feature: Love Walked In  [3:00] A musical outtake song sequence featuring Georges Guétary and Oscar Levant.
Special Feature: Audio-only bonuses: Outtake songs gallery and Gene Kelly, Leslie Caron and Johnny Green radio promos [14:00] A trio of interviews with Gene Kelly, Johnny Green, and a conversational chat with Gene Kelly and Leslie Caron.
Theatrical Trailer  [4:00] [1080p]
Finally, one of the high points of the M-G-M musical, `An American in Paris' makes a welcome entry into the annals of high definition in this marvellous looking Blu-ray release with a host of bonuses that make the package a must-see and for many a must-own. Warner Brothers used their patented ultra-resolution process to bring this film back to life. That means they went back to the original 3 strip Technicolor negatives and realigned them digitally. As a result, the colour and detail is unlike anything we have seen before on home video. In the dance number, where Leslie Caron takes on different personalities using different dances and colours, you will not believe the quality of colour. It really was amazingly, absolutely beautiful. If you have a Blu-ray player, make sure to choose this Blu-ray version of this film as you will experience something truly special and that is why it has gone pride of place in my ever increasing Gene Kelly Blu-ray Collection. Highly Recommended!
Andrew C. Miller – Your Ultimate No.1 Film Fan
Le Cinema Paradiso
WARE, United Kingdom