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Taking its visual inspiration from French Impressionist painting and its music from the works of George and Ira Gershwin, AN AMERICAN IN PARIS ($29) would seem to be a brilliant combination of art forms, but at the time of its release, this concept film was an untested quantity. In 1951, AN AMERICAN IN PARIS pushed the boundaries of American movie musicals and was suitably rewarded with the Academy Award for Best Picture, in addition to five other Oscars. With director Vincente Minnelli’s keen eye behind the camera, AN AMERICAN IN PARIS is also a visual treat, most especially during its climatic seventeen minute ballet sequences, which fully marries impressionist painting to Gershwin melody… by way of Gene Kelly’s impeccable choreography, which fuses tap to ballet.

The plot of AN AMERICAN IN PARIS tells the story of Jerry Mulligan (Gene Kelly), a former GI living in France and trying to eke out a living as a painter. Jerry’s best friend is Adam Cook (Oscar Levant), a wisecracking, but unknown concert pianist, who is also a longtime associate of renowned French music hall star Henri Baurel (Georges Guétary). While Jerry is trying to peddle his paintings on the street, he encounters wealthy Milo Roberts (Nina Foch), who takes an interest in his work, but more especially, Jerry himself. While Milo is trying to promote Jerry and exert some control over him, Jerry becomes smitten with Lise Bouvier (Leslie Caron), a lovely young shop girl he meets in a restaurant. Of course, Milo isn’t the only complication in Jerry and Lise’s relationship, as she is already involved with Henri, who saved her life during the war. The largely uncredited supporting cast of AN AMERICAN IN PARIS features some familiar faces, including Hayden Rorke, Noel Neill and Madge Blake.

Warner Home Video has made AN AMERICAN IN PARIS available on Blu-ray Disc in a 1.37:1 aspect ratio presentation that has been encoded onto the disc with the VC-1 codec. The 1080p presentation is superb. I have seen AN AMERICAN IN PARIS countless times, but never have enjoyed the film, as much as I did while watching it in high definition. Warner’s Ultra-Resolution process is responsible for this film looking as marvelous as it does, as well as it being rendered with such sharpness, clarity, dimensionality and detail. The An American In Paris Ballet will blow one away, it is truly spectacular to behold. However, even with the enhanced resolution some shots do appear softer than others, due to the nature of the optical effects utilized in the film. Still, despite the slight weakness in the optical fades and dissolves, the image remains very impressive. Speaking of impressive, the presentation goes a long way to rendering the vibrancy of an IB Technicolor print, with many eye-popping hues practically leaping off the screen. Blacks are velvety, while the whites are smooth and silky. Contrast and shadow detail are very strong. The film elements from which AN AMERICAN IN PARIS were transferred display few flaws. Mild grain is present in the image, with the presentation maintaining an organic quality and never appearing digitally over-processed.

AN AMERICAN IN PARIS is presented on Blu-ray Disc with a Dolby Digital monaural 192kbps soundtrack. All things considered, the soundtrack is surprisingly good. Fidelity is better than I was expecting for a near six-decade-old film, with the songs being rendered remarkably well. Most instances of background hiss and surface noise have been cleaned up in the mastering process, leaving the film with smooth sonics. Dialogue is crisply rendered and remains totally understandable. French, Spanish, German and Italian Dolby Digital monaural tracks are also encoded onto the disc. Subtitles are available in English, French, Spanish, Danish, Dutch, Finnish, German, Italian, Norwegian, Portuguese and Swedish.

The interactive menus allow one access to the standard scene selection and set up features, as well as the supplements. Starting things off is a running Audio Commentary that is hosted by Patricia Ward Kelly and features the assembled comments director Vincente Minnelli, actors Gene Kelly, Nina Foch, and Leslie Caron, producer Arthur Freed, screenwriter Alan Jay Lerner, co-musical directors Johnny Green and Saul Chaplin, musician Michael Feinstein, art director Preston Ames, and costume designer Irene Sharaff. ‘S Wonderful: The Making Of An American In Paris is a forty-two minute retrospective on the production of this classic musical. : Gene Kelly: Anatomy Of A Dancer is a ninety minute 2002 documentary taken from the PBS American Masters television series. The 1938 MGM short: Paris On Parade is also provided, as is the 1951 MGM cartoon: Symphony In Slang. An Outtake of the Love Walked In musical number, as well as Audio Outtakes, Radio Interviews and a Theatrical Trailer close out the supplements.

AN AMERICAN IN PARIS is a musical cinema masterwork. The Blu-ray presentation is superb and restores the look of the film to is full glory. Highest recommendation. Can’t wait to see Warner’s companion Blu-ray release GIGI.



An American in Paris [Blu-ray] (1951)


DVD & Blu-rayDisc reviews are Copyright © 2009 THE CINEMA LASER and may not be copied or reprinted without the written consent of the publisher.
THE CINEMA LASER is written, edited and published by Derek M. Germano.



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