Kelly & Caron's Musical Extravaganza
If you like musicals which are crammed to the hilt with song & dance scenes then I would say "An American in Paris" will be a pleasant watch with one musical scene after another culminating with a 17 minute musical extravaganza. But if you want a musical to have a semi decent storyline, or at least one which is not paper thin, then "An American in Paris" is going to be a struggle and that 17 minute musical extravaganza will probably end up feeling like overblown, self indulgent padding. And that sadly is my opinion because whilst I enjoyed the various song and dance scenes, especially with Gene Kelly making it all look so effortless, the lack of a semi important storyline is an issue and that 17 minute musical extravaganza whilst impressive is also too self indulgent. Actually that 17 minute musical extravaganza is a major reason why for me "An American in Paris" ends up a good musical but nothing more.
Following the war, ex GI Jerry Mulligan (Gene Kelly - Singin' in the Rain) stays on in Paris with hopes of becoming an artist. But like so many artists he is struggling, living in a tiny room where he has to winch his bed in the morning up so that he can move around. But that is until he id discovered by Milo Roberts (Nina Foch) who starts promoting his works whilst also trying to win his affections. But whilst Milo tries to woo Jerry he has fallen for the illusive Lise (Leslie Caron - Chocolat) who he meets up with in secret, partly because he doesn't want Milo to discover their relationship but also because Lise doesn't want Jerry to discover that she is engaged to Henri Baurel (Georges GuÃ©tary) who happens to be a friend of musician Adam Cook (Oscar Levant) who in turn is a friend of Jerry's.
Now I know you don't always expect the greatest of storylines when it comes to a musical but what there is in "An American in Paris" is paper thin. In fact the storyline is basically a romantic cliche where we watch artist Jerry Mulligan find himself in the middle of a messy love triangle, one which sees him finding himself with an amorous and jealous sponsor but also falling for a young woman who happens to be dating a friend of a friend. That is really it and so we watch as Jerry sort of struggles in the middle, fending off the advances of one whilst trying to win the heart of another before it finally culminates where everything is out in the open and it is a case of which of these women Jerry will end with. The trouble is that despite some nice embellishments such as the way we are introduced to Jerry and his friend Adam, there is little to the storyline and is essentially very simple and unoriginal.
But of course being a musical "An American in Paris" is all about the song and dance and for the first three quarters it impresses. The various songs are recognizable with fun versions of such songs as "Swonderful" and "I Got Rhythm" and the dancing is just as fun. There is something about Gene Kelly, the way he makes it look so effortless which is mesmerising and the various tap routines he does are captivating. And whilst Kelly is the star of "An American in Paris" Leslie Caron is equally impressive in her dance scenes delivering an elegance to every second which is spellbinding.
The trouble is that whilst for the first three quarters it works, it entertains you then get that final quarter or in fact 17 minutes with a big dance routine. Now I will say it is impressive and spectacular but also very self indulgent as it goes on and on seeming to go nowhere and deliver nothing of importance to the story. And that is the big problem, this 17 minute musical extravaganza is 17 minutes of padding to show off the dancing talents of Gene Kelly and Leslie Caron which to be frank it doesn't need to do.
Aside from Gene Kelly and Leslie Caron who really lead "An American in Paris" with a great amount of energy and in Kelly's case charisma they are aided by some fine supporting performances. Whilst it may be a 2 dimensional character Nina Foch makes Milo Roberts, the artistic sponsor, at least interesting and Oscar Levant as Adam Cook is spectacular when it comes to comical piano playing. Although once again there is a scene which feels self indulgent as Adam dreams of playing in an orchestra, an orchestra which features him in every part from piano player through to conductor.
What this all boils down to is that whilst "An American in Paris" is entertaining and features some memorable song and dance scenes as well as nice performances from Gene Kelly and Leslie Caron it all ends up being a little too self indulgent. And it is self indulgent because of that 17 minute musical extravaganza which not only goes on and on but adds nothing to what is a very simple love triangle storyline. As such "An American in Paris" is good fun and features the effortless brilliance and charisma of Gene Kelly but ends up being spoilt by what ends up as a spectacular piece of padding.