An American in Paris

An American in Paris

Lise Bouvier: Oh Jerry. It’s so dreadful standing next to you like this, and not having your arms around me.

Jerry Mulligan: You’ll always be standing next to me Lise.

Lise: Maybe not always. Paris has ways of making people forget.

Jerry: Paris? No, not this city. It’s too real and too beautiful. It never lets you forget anything. It reaches in and opens you wide, and you stay that way. I know. I came to Paris to study and to paint because Utrillo did, and Lautrec did, and Roualt did. I loved what they created, and I thought something would happen to me, too. Well, it happened all right. Now what have I got left? Paris. Maybe that’s enough for some but it isn’t for me anymore because the more beautiful everything is, the more it will hurt without you.

Lise: Jerry. Don’t let me leave you this way.


“What does it mean to call a filmmaker ‘painterly’? It’s an oft-used descriptor, and it seems to make a lot of intuitive sense, at least. Yet since the term, when applied to cinema, is essentially conjoining two art forms wildly disparate in fundamental, industrial ways, it’s perhaps worth investigating further. There is seemingly no shortage of directors we might call painterly, from Maurice Pialat to Terence Davies to Olivier Assayas, which doesn’t mean that their films necessarily have the look of paintings but rather that they compose each frame with an attention to light and color equal to that of narrative. There’s an aesthetic unity to their films that makes them feel like the products of single artistic – not merely auteurist – visions. Because of this, it’s rare for the term to be applied to a Hollywood studio director, who is not only subject to the whims of the system but also wedded to a studio’s entrenched style. Yet one can hardly read any paragraph about American studio workhorse Vincente Minnelli without coming across at least one reference to his painterly aesthetic.”

Michael Koresky1


“Chris Marker has stated that when he, Alain Resnais and Ghislain Cloquet were in London in 1952 filming Les statues meurent aussi they began every day by attending a 10am screening of An American in Paris. An American in Paris: a film which, apart from a few second-unit shots, recreates Paris entirely on Hollywood soundstages and the back lot; Les statues meurent aussi: a documentary short on what happens to African art when it is exhibited in museums where it loses its relationship to the folk culture from which it sprang and as a result becomes lifeless, part of the ‘botany of death that we call culture.’ In a larger sense, the short is also about the nature of art and what it (along with science and religion) means to us in our fight against death, becoming the ‘instrument of a desire to seize the world.’ There are, of course, many ways for an artist to seize the world and consequently many ways for the artists we sometimes call filmmakers to do so as well, through the most rigorous of documentaries to the most stylised of musicals. Marker does not go into detail as to what it was he and his collaborators got out of this daily ritual of watching An American in Paris except to note the ‘lightness’ that they felt watching the film.”

Joel McElhany2

UPDATED ON 12.10.2017