An American In Paris (Minnelli, 1951)

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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.

Some Came Running (Minnelli, 1958)

Some Came Running is a lush tapestry of color and subtext that reminds of a Hollywood long since dead and gone, one that seems as foreign now as ever. What begins as a standard melodrama, with an estranged soldier (Frank Sinatra) returning home to presumably cause trouble and scandal for his greedy older brother, slowly evolves into something else altogether – a labyrinth of secrets, uncertainties, and disappointments taking place on many different levels and classes. There’s a patience in the storytelling, equal parts direction and performance, that enables the audience to develop a rapport with the characters as they experience a kaleidoscope of emotions. Minnelli oftern holds the camera on his players, soaking in their point of view not through irony or wit, but with a genuine sense of loss (the final pan across Sinatra and Dean Martin speaks volumes). Some Came Running spends so much time documenting these relationships its hard to imagine it ending, and when it does the film reveals itself as a heartbreaking tragedy of the first order. All those sharp hues that were supposed to signified love or hope end up representing a sense of staggering regret we never knew was there.