Thursday, May 3, 2012

Paris Reimagined by Vincente

Paris appears, but all its color has been drained. It's a fickle city that will falsely enchant, then mock you. Suddenly the color is harshly splashed into the image and the spirit of the city is evoked. We [Minnelli and Preston Ames] used two identical  sketches except that one is in black and white and the other in color-placed at an angle so that they're reflected in the center black glass mirror through which we were shooting. The black and white sketch was first lighted, then gradually the color sketch comes into existence - Gene [Kelly] standing in front of it-as each segment of color is splashed onto the image to suggest the spirit of the city.

The flower market at dawn is suggested by Renoir...beautiful, but lifeless and sad. The girl appears, but she's an illusion. There is no feeling of contact. They move together like two automatons. Her being is as tenuous and fragile as the flowers around them. He gives way to the feeling of emptiness.

He next chances upon a deserted street reminiscent of Utrillo. Hope stirs in him. The memory of something to cling to is symbolized by the appearance of the American servicemen...his own people, his own roots and rhythms, something that may recapture the desire to live. This mood elaborates itself in his mind. He's with Americans, and Paris becomes naive and gay.

The scene becomes the Zoological Gardens in the manner of Rousseau. Purged of sadness and resentment, he meets the girl as for the first time in her own environment the embodiment of all that is young and lovely about Paris. They dance together, carefree, the Americans and the French. The suppressed physical yearning blots out every other emotion and his mind feverishly indulges in a dream of a great and reciprocated love.

He is drugged with the thought, the dream expands. Paris is again alive, but now it is part of him and he is a part of Paris, the Paris that loves a lover. The gay crowds in the Place de l'Opera come to life and he and his love dance with them. They imagine themselves as characters in a Toulouse-Lautrec poster. Their hysteria becomes an orgy of fulfillment when, without warning, the nothingness returns. People disappear and the color drains out of everything. He's left again, as he started, hopeless and alone. -- Vincente Minnelli (I Remember It Well, PP. 241-242.)

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