On Saturday night I watched An American in Paris and two days later I'm still hearing Gershwin's jazz riffs in my head, still listening to the swelling strains of "Our Love is Here to Stay," and still wondering how Gene Kelly manages to make ankle-length pants, white socks and black shoes terribly, terribly sexy.
I'm not generally a fan of the Techicolor era of movie musicals--I'm a diehard Astaire/Rogers gal--but I'm a sucker for this film. Kelly's character, Jerry Mulligan, is an ex-GI turned starving artist on the streets of Paris after WWII. Leslie Caron is Lise, a lovely shop girl with a secret. On first glance, the two don't seem to be much of a match. Until of course, they dance together. While the film is best known for its wordless 17 minute ballet sequence at the end, for me it will always be defined by one number: the courtship dance to "Our Love is Here to Stay." Kelly is attempting to woo the resistant Caron, who leans shyly against a wall. But once the violins start, Kelly pulls her into a gentle embrace, and the two begin a balletic exchange that is at once sinuous and chaste. And while Caron is a delicate and nuanced dancer, it's Kelly who blows you away. Fleet-footed, graceful, athletic, and undeniably masculine. No matter how many grand jetes he executes, you never for a moment forget he's a guy. (Dance training tends to build muscle in rather interesting ways.) I hadn't seen this movie in years before Saturday night, and as this dance began I actually let out an audible sigh. Just for a second, I felt as though I were dancing along the banks of the Seine. And it occurred to me that a good dance is a lot like a well-written love scene, with two people who dance around each other before they finally connect in the most satisfying of ways. A scene that builds to certain heights and then quietly falls. A scene that pulls the reader into a world she wishes she could inhabit, even if it's only for a couple of hours.
♥ ♥ ♥