|The Penn Station in The Clock|
"Loving evaluation of texture, the screen being filled as a window is dressed in a swank department store." — Orson Welles
If we accept Raymond Durgnat's theory that in cinema, landscape is the equation of the state of the soul and architecture constitutes an X-ray photograph of the heroes' , then Minnelli's films, especially musicals and melodramas, can be described as full-color X-ray photography of the inner universe of his characters, with a particular interest in artists, daydreamers, painters and dancers.
Minnelli's films generally happen in strange places. In his musicals the absence of modern urban life (unlike Stanley Donen, for instance) is noticeable. The real is recreated by studio-manufactured settings, where also the unreal, the fantasy, takes place. Minnelli's films are the encounter of two worlds, two parallel lines, which in reality never happen to cross each other. Although it is true that even the "real world" in a Minnelli film is visually more striking than most of the Hollywood films we know, he manages to go beyond that and create magical moments in which the viewer feels that he or she is watching sheer, untouched beauty. In such scenes (the last sequence of An American in Paris, for instance) one tempts to see the whole film as something to lead the audience to the moment of emotional and audio-visual eruption. As if the whole structure is built to highlight the rareness and transiency of beauty which comes fully to life in a dream.