An American In Paris (Minnelli, 1951)


Pure American fluff. Tapestries ripe with whimsey and longing intertwine lost souls suffering from unrequited love and artistic impotence. The musical numbers show a penchant for fantastic displays of movement, yet each fades from memory because the story and characters lack any dynamism.

But Vincente Minnelli’s brilliant use of color transcends the material as reds and blues take on meaning far beyond their surface representations. Is there another classic director who appreciates the use of color in evoking emotional connections with characters as much as Minnelli? In An American In Paris, there are some curious and historically important reflexive moments sprinkled throughout the opening sequence, but by the end it’s hard to consider why this film is so beloved by certain critics. It’s entertaining, but completely fleeting and superficial.


4 thoughts on “An American In Paris (Minnelli, 1951)

  1. Glenn,
    I very much enjoy reading your blog since it is insightful, visually appealling, and reviews and eclectic selection of films. I respectfully disagree with you about “An American in Paris” however. I certainly do agree with you about the color, but think the movie has a lot more going for it. A dazzling 20 minute ballet sequence with a previously obscure actress hardly fits the conventions of American movies, and is only “fluffy” insofar as it is pure art. MGM musicals aren’t about plot and characters. They’re about sheer joy. I agree with you that many of them do become formulaic, but to me “An American in Paris” is fresh. Would you like to link to each other’s blogs? I write for Contemporary Film Criticism, I look forward to continuing to discuss films on each other’s sites.

  2. Robert – Thank you so much for your comments. I agree that the musicals of the 1950’s are all about audience reaction, the joy that you stated. That final 20 minute sequence is amazingly constructed, I just didn’t personally have a connection with any of it. I don’t need characters in Musicals to be 3-dimensional, but I do need to be interested in them. For me the joy was missing for some reason, and it seemed like Minnelli kept throwing more and more at the screen for little other reason to stimulate that joy. “An American In Paris” is definitely beautiful art, but for me it didn’t leave a lasting impression. But I definitely look forward to re-visiting it.

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