28 December 2002 | rch427
Irritating story somewhat relieved by fine dance numbers
OK, there is no doubt that Gene Kelly can dance, and he can even sing and act passably well. But never have I seen him play a less appealing character than in "An American in Paris". It's one thing to be a lovable rogue, so long as you retain a basic humanity and don't go out of your way to insult the viewer's decency. In some ways "An American in Paris" is Kelly's "Pal Joey", except Frank Sinatra managed to carry off that film by dint of his acting skills.
Part of the plot revolves around his being a painter whose "talent" has been discovered by wealthy patroness Milo (the lovely Nina Foch in an unsympathetic role). Unfortunately for the credibility of the plot, Kelly's paintings are are "motel art" at its worst. (For anyone who questions my credibility: I'm a professional artist and am quite familiar with "the School of the City of Paris" style his paintings ape) And what does Kelly--who supposedly wants to have a solo show "more than anything on earth"--do when it is dropped into his lap by Milo? He promptly does everything to sabotage her interest.
Kelly's interest in Leslie Caron couldn't be more superficial and unbelievable. Despite what others have written here, the scene with Kelly and Caron on the banks of the Seine ("Our Love is Here to Stay") is like the rest of their relationship: stiff, perfunctory and unconvincing.
The story bogs down considerably half-way through, and finally, any semblance of plot or character development is thrown out the window. It's as if director Minelli said "hey, we've got a bunch of great Gershwin Brothers music. Let's stage a big dance finale that is set in Old Paris but has nothing to do with anything else in this film and leaves every story element unresolved". Then, for no reason at all, we'll resolve the plot". What a load of crap.
There is plenty that is visually and audibly appealing in "An American in Paris". The sets and costuming are good, the music is, with few exceptions, excellent. Oscar Levant gives a great supporting performance. But if you want to see Gene Kelly at his best, I recommend watching "Invitation to the Dance" instead, where his considerable dancing skills and charm are unhindered by the very things that cause "An American in Paris" to fail.