Tuesday, November 09, 2010

An American in Paris: In It's Ageless Magic, I Rue the Demise of Romanticism


Will the generation now growing up on hip hop power, or on Britney and her peers, ever in a future day, then wrapping their emotions around the songs and cinematic images they once embraced, feel anything close to what I embraced a few evenings ago watching the MGM musical, An American in Paris?

Or are we all doomed to the replay of feelings as distinctly different as were the entertainment forms that first engendered those feelings? The fifties was a romantic era. Few people resisted the artifice of "breaking into song" as they now do. Today’s younger set responds to sounds and images decidedly more smug, more cynical. Some would argue, more realistic. Perhaps they simply will never feel what I felt, nor what I still feel when confronted by The Bandwagon, Singing in the Rain, or Gigi, to name a few.

Still, I feel sorry for those who may never thrill to the dancing of Gene Kelly, the songs of George and Ira Gershwin, the artful cinematic genius of director Vincente Minnelli, the remarkable scripting of Alan Jay Lerner in his prime. Perhaps the best hope is the fresh inspiration that more recent pop stars, like Rod Stewart, are bringing to the Great American Songbook.

A few weeks ago, I re-watched Hairspray, a contemporary movie musical that lifted my spirits as high as a fifties MGM song and dancer when it first came out. I remember being mightily impressed. So what has happened since then? Somehow since, I’ve lost my taste for the film. I can still appreciate its high qualities, yes, and yet the second time around, for me the thrill was gone.

How strange, or might it be merely fateful?, that we each, in our own younger years, may acquire feelings unique to our time, feelings that possibly may never again be felt by others who succeed us. If that be the case, how glad I am that I was born when Gene Kelly and Leslie Caron were the stars. When we all sang and danced in the rain.

I have very few DVDs on my shelves. I think I'll add An American in Paris, and maybe send Hairspray to my sister -- younger then me by one significant year.

First published 11.10.10

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