A rich heiress in Paris falls in love with Jerry Mulligan, a young American painter. But Jerry is smitten with Lise, who has a boyfriend of her own. The scene is set for romantic toings and froings in the streets of Paris of the Belle Époque.
The artist as a figure is very dear to Vincente Minelli. Having grown up in the travelling family entertainment troupe The Minnelli Brothers Dramatic and Tent Show, he was a very gifted drawer from an early age. This passion, and his fascination for the world of art and show business, is reflected in many of his films, including The Band Wagon, Lust for Life, The Bad and the Beautiful and, in particular, An American in Paris In this film we are plunged into post-World War II Paris, where we follow the journey of a young painter longing for recognition. It projects a romantic image of the artist leading a bohemian life in an idyllic Paris but it does not totally ignore hardships such as poverty and lack of success. The whole thing is handled with a lot of humour, much of it offbeat. But life is never tragic for the characters in the film. It brings to mind, in particular, the opening scene of Singin' in the Rain, where Don Lockwood talks of his rise in Hollywood while the viewer learns his real story. This discrepancy produces an impressive comedic effect just like the off-camera commentary at the start of An American in Paris. The film's visual universe is wonderfully rich. Since Vincente Minnelli was himself an illustrator and a set designer, he took special care to get the sets in his films exactly right. Here he uses painted canvases that were painstakingly worked on for scenes shot in a studio. Some of them depict the streets of Paris, others evoke the works of painters such as Dufy, Renoir, Utrillo, Rousseau, Van Gogh or Toulouse-Lautrec. The characters go about their lives on these sets. Several scenes have been designed as "tableaux", which is a term often used in the theatre or in musical comedies. A good example is the scene that introduces Lise and different aspects of her personality: each character trait is represented by a dance, a costume or a piece of decor, in a frame. A lot of thought went into the music and dancing, too, with an original soundtrack featuring pieces by George Gershwin, whose orchestral poem gives the film its title of An American in Paris. Gene Kelly choreographed the dance scenes. The film is what we refer to as a musical comedy. Sequences of dialogue alternate with singing and dancing sequences. It is, along with Singin' in the Rain and The Band Wagon, one of the films that marks both the peak and the end of the golden age of Hollywood musicals.Read more Show less
Children can get great enjoyment from this film from the age of 8-9 upwards, when they can grasp the offbeat tone and the various cultural references that make the film's artwork so rich.