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Posts Tagged ‘AFI 100’

An American in Paris (1951)

Gene Kelly is magic. Every time I see him on-screen I just swoon at his grace and skill. An American in Paris like many of the Kelly musicals seems to be a plot strung together just enough to have the spectacular song and dance numbers. Unfortunately, I spent most of the picture comparing this film to the superior Singin’ in the Rain. Also, when I say that I am merely splitting hairs between excellent performances, but for my money nothing beats Gene rolling down the sidewalk and at one point literally tap dancing with skates on. (Part of this nostalgia may come from the scene in Leon where Jean Reno’s character sits awe-struck by Gene Kelley’s performance.)

Regardless of my preference, An American in Paris boasts some wonderful musical numbers. The standout being ‘I’ve Got Rhythm’ sung with schoolchildren on a sidewalk. (I must have an affinity for sidewalk musical numbers) The song starts out so softly and builds and builds until Kelly spins like a helicopter off of the screen. Another favorite of mine is Gene’s character waking up at his apartment and for the first time the audience sees his morning routine. The setup of the apartment feels like a livable Rube Goldberg machine with bed, stove, desk and art supplies all intricately assembled to provide maximum use for space value. The ease of Kelley’s movement through the scene and the space of the room is remarkable. It is so effortless that it hardly seems worth commenting on, but no one can mistake the skill required to successfully pull the scene off.

While the ending number features exquisite costuming and dancing I was overwhelmed and bored with the ‘everything but the kitchen sink’ feel of the performance. As I have described with the sidewalk scenes less for Gene Kelly often delivers so much more.

Rating: 4/5

Until next time, Cheers!

Spartacus (1960)

This past month I finally saw the film Spartacus starring Kirk Douglas and directed by Stanley Kubrick. Having long been a fan of Gladiator I was looking forward to a film which has long been recommended as the quintessential ‘sandal and sword’ film.

The film runs three hours providing some significant downtime between the battles and action scenes which punctuate the film. During these periods my interest did begin to wane, but with the composition, costuming, music and rich dialogue there was never a point where I wished the film would end. With each new scene and set piece I remarked that a film like this would not be made today. In addition, I saw a more recent release which includes the infamous ‘oysters and snails’ scene between Crassus and Antoninus.

Within the Kubrick films I have seen, this one felt the most like a blockbuster or Saturday-matinée fair. This I would attribute to the brilliant reds and golds of the costuming, lavish set design, immense cast and multiple battle scenes between individual gladiators and large armies. Ultimately I was won over by this film, especially during Kirk Douglas’ rousing call to arms scene following a battle which left the scene literally red from blood and flame just before intermission. I whole heartedly recommend Spartacus to fans of Kubrick, Douglas or epic films.

Rating: 4/5

Until next time, Cheers!