Another Oscar BEST PICTURE winner confected by Vincente Minnelli, the maker of GIGI (1958), comes a cropper as a fustypomp through the test of time, AN AMERICAN IN PARIS,a studio-bound pageant jovially trades on Gene Kelly’s terpsichorean aptitude, Oscar Levant’s pianistic virtuosity and Georges Guétary’s mellow tenor, also introducing a barely 20-year-old Leslie Caron, who fares way better on pointe than acting love-torn between two men.
The titular American is Jerry Mulligan (Kelly), an undiscovered painter trying his luck in Paris, who gets the patronage from a wealthy socialite Milo Roberts (Foch), but falls head over heels for an ingénue Lise Bouvier (Caron), who in truth is the girlfriend of a French cabaret singer Henri Baurel (Guétary), yet, Henri and Jerry have a common friend, the struggling concert pianist Adam Cook (Levant).Alan Jay Lerner’s Oscar-winning script doesn’t even try to juice up the love triangle, nor does it disperses comic relief whenever it sees fit, one glaring missing opportunity is when the three male friends share the same scene with Adam in the knowing that the other two are falling in love with the same girl, what does he do? Nothing but hangdog insouciance.
More problematically is its salient demerit of flagrant misogyny and male’s wish-fulfillment, earlier on, Jerry haughtily berates a young female student (Neill) who tries to assess his works, utterly dismisses her opinion as inconsequential, and when Milo comes to the picture, Foch was only 27-year-old then, but what the picture depicts her makes her look like a lonely, minted cougar salivating over Jerry with every step and gaze, later after being patronized with a kiss from her disillusion-stuck beau, she has to stomach a supercilious sideswipe from a floppy Adam and onlythanks to Foch’s majestic composure, the character narrowly escapes from being a total laughing stock, plus Jerry’s rapturous infatuation with a mousy Caron over an apparently poised Milo makes it distastefully difficult to suspend our disbelief, and writs large Hollywood’s morbid obsession with young girls.
Fanfare reaches its apex in the climatic "The American in Paris Ballet”, a 17 minute seamlessly choreographed sequence is spectacular with a capital S, yet, everything impresses for the eyes/ears only, a meretricious pomp punches far above its weight with its over-appreciated repute, and very likely, ranks in the lowest rung among the prestigious Oscar BEST PICTURE clique.
referential points: Stanley Donen and Gene Kelly’s SINGIN’ IN THE RAIN (1952, 8.1/10); Vincente Minnelli’s GIGI (1958, 6.6/10). MEET ME IN ST. LOUIS (1944, 6.7/10).