CineMathematics or CinemaThematics. Your choice

Monday, August 18, 2008

Sundae Monday's (Hopefully) Back From Summer Vacation

I didn't go anywhere this summer. A year in London was enough for me. Alas, lately my mind has been departing from this world and entrenching me within the world of pop culture. Well, mostly past pop culture. Along with keeping up with Mad Men, The Daily Show and The Colbert Report, in the past week I have consumed or am in the process of consuming Paul Sherman's Big Screen Boston, Watchmen (the only thing on this list I haven't finished yet), the first season of The Sopranos, the third season of It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia, Monsieur Verdoux, La Strada, Hoop Dreams, The Takind of Pelham One Two Three (can you tell I've been watching way too much Hulu?), Halloween (the original), Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown, Fahrenheit 9/11, and the film to which the clip below belongs, An American in Paris, all while listening to The Velvet Underground & Nico, OK Computer, The Bends, Unknown Pleasures and Modern Guilt all for the first time. I hope to write something about any one of these in the near future (most likely Halloween or Big Screen Boston). But on to the clip.

This clip comes from the final dance number in An American in Paris, which lasts 18 minutes. It is quite simply stunning, both in Gene Kelly's choreography and in E. Preston Ames and Cedric Gibbons' art direction. The scene takes place entirely within the daydreams of Jerry Mulligan (Kelly) after he has lost the love of his life (read: our little boy has a crush on his best friend's girl), and it has the feel of what we would see in the heads of Robert De Niro or Julie Christie at the end of Once Upon a Time in America or McCabe & Mrs. Miller, respectively. Those two characters, depressed by their worlds, escape through opium and the films end with them lost inside their heads. If they were musical in nature, their minds would look like Mulligan's dreams. However, the film pulls back from Mulligan sinking into his mind by pulling an It's a Wonderful Life: happy endings for everyone (except that other guy who loves Lisa. What a loser)!! It's a testimony to the power of this dance scene that I went from desperately wanting Lisa and Jerry back together to wishing Jerry's pain would never end. That may sound sadistic, but it's hard not to want pain when it's so beautiful and well crafted.

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