VincentMinnelli’s style of directing is renowned for developing innovativeheights of intricacy in the movie musical industry in the periodbetween the 1940s and the 1950s (McElhany). An American in Paris(1951) and Meet Me in St. Louis (1944) are examples of the Musicalsthat elevated the name of Minnelli to the top of his career. Minnelliwas able to capture a unique, fever-pitch sensibility that enabledhim to attract both the American and European cineastes. Minnelli`slove for words such as "beauty" and "magic"brought to the front a principle or philosophy that was used todistinguish Minnelli from other directors. Minnelli usually said thatthe audience always sought "magic" when watching moviesthus, he always strived to incorporate this illusion in his films.The aesthetic value of Minnelli`s movies can be seen where asynthesis of myth, fairy-tale, comic and a world full of thepossibilities of transformation and metamorphosis is brought intoperspective. An analysis of Minnelli`s style of directing, using MeetMe in St. Louis, The Bandwagon and An American in Paris reveals hisstyle of directing: ’s style of directing,essentially, incorporates the concepts “beauty” and “magic.”
MeetMe in St. Louis has been advanced as one of the most delightful,classic, and romanticized musical films (Dirks).Minnelli contextualizes this movie within a suburban, Midwesternsetting. The Smith family, a well-to-do household, lives in a stylishEdwardian home at 5135 Kensington Avenue. Minnelli uses Technicolorto film the cinematic, picture-postcard American and youthful romancethat this movie advances. The storyline of Meet Me in St. Louis ispremised on Sally Benson’s Memoirs of her life in St. Louis.Minnelli expresses Benson’s stories, which are a dozen in number.These stories represent the twelve months of a year. Meet Me in St.Louis was directed in a manner that can be viewed as groundbreakingthe film abandoned the "put-on-a-show" attitude that themajority of backstage dance or song films adopted. The excellentsongs and dances in the movie were incorporated in a manner that canonly be perceived as prudent and natural to the daily events in aclose-knit family. This approach helped the transition in plot andaction from one season to the next flawless.
Thestructure of Meet Me in St. Louis comprises four vignettes (Dirks).In essence, different acts in the film represent seasons from thesummer of 1903 to the spring of 1904 thus displaying a sequence ofcoming-of-age vignettes. Each segment is a representation of thechanges and rites of passage. The Smith family album introduces thefiligree tintype changes. Each image in the album is static,initially sepia-toned, but, eventually, becomes colorful and alive.Despite the fact that the winter scene is among the shortestvignettes, the film is still considered one of the best Christmasmovies.
TheFirst Vignette brings into perception a static view of a family albumsnapshot revealing an attractive Victorian house (sepia-colored) thatis located in St. Louis, Missouri (Dirks). Minnelli makes the scenesin the movie vibrant by zooming the camera in and bringing into viewthe animated, full-colored enlargement, which shows themansard-roofed home that has dormer windows and a veranda. Minnelliengages his audience by using the camera to track down the unpavedstreet, which follows an open, horse-drawn cart transporting CircleStar Beer. The camera then turns left to trail the lawn, following ayoung man heading toward Mr. Smith’s yard on his bicycle. The scenethen thaws into the kitchen, where Mrs. Smith is seen together withKatie making ketchup. Over the course of all these events, thehumming of the Meet Me in St. Louis song is heard as all thecharacters taste the ketchup. Eventually, the whole family beginssinging the title song. These actions bring Minnelli`s style ofdirecting into view: myth, fairy-tale, comic, magic, and beauty. Inessence, the viewer is first acquainted with the awe-inspiringsurrounding of Mr. Smith`s house and then exited by the humming andthe singing in the film.
Inthe Second Vignette, the scene brings Smith’s house into view(Dirks). However, this time, the scene is shot at night. The audiencequickly learns that it is late October during the Halloween season.Minnelli uses the Gothic windows to display an eerie yellow light hedoes this to set the feeling of Halloween in his audience. In thekitchen, girls wearing gruesome costumes are seen. Tootie’s costumedepicts her as an unburied ghost that is dressed in a bowler hat, anoversize coat, and a long rat nose. Agnes has a white coatilluminating a terrible ghost that was murdered in a den of thieves.These scenes bring to bear myths about ghosts. The costumes revealMinnelli’s philosophy about bringing forth illusion and beauty.Ghosts are usually associated with magic and mystery this is whatMinnelli, goes out of his way to reveal to his audience.
Likethe two previous vignettes, the Third Vignette also opens up with aview of Mr. Smith’s house (Dirks). This time, Smith’s house isdepicted fading into the winter snow. This scene is somewhatnostalgic. The sounds of sleigh bells, the Currier-and-Ivesappearance of a horse-drawn sleigh, and the children sliding down theKensington Avenue lawns in the sunshine bring an entirely differentfeel in the film. Children building a family of snowmen are also seenbehind Mr. Smith’s house, while the older children plan how theywill spend their Christmas Ball. A different scene brings into view aremarkable tracking-through-a-window shot, which reveals an elegantChristmas ball scene all couples are seen pairing up in this scene.A scene where John is perceived proposing to Esther is also broughtinto perspective. The icy, blue moonlight and a snowy scene in frontof a leafless tree capture the moment perfectly. In the thirdvignette, Minnelli strives to bring beauty to the front by showinghis audience the pleasantries of nature and the activities of thecharacters in the scene.
TheFourth Vignette is the briefest. This scene opens with an image ofMr. Smith’s house (Dirks). However, the blossoming of springdefines the view. The greeting card of 5135 Kensington Avenue fadesand all the Smith girls are well dressed, in white finery, outsidethe residence of Mr. Smith. A horse-drawn carriage moves the oldergirls and their suitors to the opening of the St. Louis "LouisianaPurchase" Exposition. Minnelli, in this scene, brings into viewthe beauty element. He creates images of a warm environment andwell-dressed people alongside it. This vignette is conspicuouslydifferent from the first two vignettes,
AnAmerican in Paris is also among the greatest, most elegant, andcelebrated films in Minnelli’s career. The film is, primarily, a‘50s musical with a musical score and Gershwin lyrics (Dirks).Composer George was in charge of the music while Ira was in charge ofthe lyrics. Some of the compositions in the film were from the ‘20sand the ‘30s. Minnelli, as usual, also incorporated lavishcostumes, sets, marvelous Technicolor cinematography, and a romanticlove story set in this movie. The main star of the film (Gene Kelly)was an exuberant dancer and a singer. The joiede vivre ofParis was the centerpiece of the entire movie. However, the film wasshot in California, on the sound podiums of MGM, apart some of theinaugural scenes that displayed the picturesque city of Paris.
Simplyput, An American in Paris is a cohesive musical this means that thedances and songs in the film integrate with the storyline seamlessly(Dirks). Just like the majority of musicals, this film does notoveremphasize the importance of the plot. The film`s finale is one ofits highest points. The finish is colorful, ambitious, imaginative,and a "dream ballet" that is a 13-minute Avante-Gardeaccording to the movie’s producers this scene cost half a milliondollars ($500,000) to produce. A pretentious sequence, featuring anill-defined period of daydream in the elegance of different painters,is amongst the most lengthy and uninterrupted dance sequences in anyHollywood film. The session features George Gershwin’s music.
Atthe beginning of the movie, Minnelli uses a voice-over, whichdescribes the setting (Dirks). The audience is included in the filmas the camera captures the scenic view of Paris. The voice (JerryMulligan) explains why Paris is a favored destination. The scene inParis is so endearing that the audience cannot help but empathizewith the views of Mulligan. He explains why any painter would want tospend time in Paris. The view of Paris reveals Minnelli`s philosophy.Minnelli always premised his films on beauty and magic. Thus, theview of Paris and its alluring nature reveals its director`s approachto incorporating myth, fairy-tale, and comical illusions. Also, thevoice-over and the various angles of the city that the cameracaptures enrich the captivating experience advanced by the movie.
Minnellibrings, to the front, another aspect of Paris that is different fromthe American experience. Mulligan contends that Paris is a lot moreaccommodative to people when compared with America. For example, hesays that in America, people told him that he did not have anytalent, but in Paris, the language feels more comfortable, even ifpeople say the same thing. The same is perceivable in Adam Cook`scase. Cook says (in a voice-over) that he is a concert pianist, butreiterates his point by stating that it is a way of saying that he isjobless. Minnelli`s approach is once again seen in this scene. Onemay describe the events that transpire in this scene as comicalbecause everything that the characters are saying has a humorousundertone. The beauty aspect is also revealed since the charactershave the ability to act happy even when everything seems gloomy: bothcharacters are content with their lives in spite of the fact thatthey are unemployed, and they are in the post-World War II period.
Anothercharacter, Henri Baurel, is depicted in front of the mirror assuringhimself that he is still the same music idol that he was in hisearlier years. His gray hair and old age, however, do not resonatewith his allegations. Henri talks about Lise Bouvier. As he triespainting her image in the mind of Adam, an image is revealed to theaudience. Five different personalities of Lise’s character comeinto perspective: exciting, shy, modern, thoughtful, and athletic.These images are revealed on a café mirror. Again, this scenedepicts Minnelli`s beauty and magic principle.
Atone point, the film transitions from the real world into a fantasy tobring into view Jerry’s and Lise’s predicament. After Lise leavesJerry, he becomes heartsick, and through the impressionisticassociation of his mind, he pictures Paris alongside its influentialpainters thus, bringing into view the 13-minute Avante-Garde. In theend, Jerry awakens from his fantasy world and sees the red rose infront of him in a deserted city. However, Minnelli brings the film toa happy ending by showing a scene where Lise kisses Henri goodbye andrushes back to Jerry. This final scene reveals Minnelli`s "magical"approach by showing Jerry`s immersion into a fantasy world, and afairytale ending by showing the romance of Jerry and Lise culminatinginto a happy ending.
TheBand Wagon, another directed film, has a relativelyinconsequential plot. The film revolves around Tony Hunter, a famoussong-and-dance man. However, Hunter`s style of music and dance seemsoutdated. Minnelli contextualizes the beginning of the movie at anauction of Tony`s memorabilia. His cap and cane are the first to beauctioned. The auctioneer begins the auction enthusiastically, buthis sales pitch is met with an indispensable silence, forcing him tolower the bid to nothing (The Blonde at the Film). Ordinarily, bidsstart at a small price range and end at a relatively high pricerange, particularly when the individual in question is a celebrity.This scene reveals how severely Tony`s career is ruined.
Thenext scene shows two men talking about Tony`s career in his presence.In this scene, Tony is seen reading a newspaper and the two menchatting without noticing him (The Blonde at the Film). Also, whenthe train finally reaches its destination, reporters are seen waitingat the train station anxiously ready to interview a celebrity.Ordinarily, the audience assumes that Tony is the star in question.However, the reporters are waiting for Ava Gardner. They all surroundGardner, bombarding her with questions and fail to notice Tony. Afterthe crowd clears, Minnelli engages the audience by introducing ascene where Tony sings the song "By Myself." The song ishappy but has a somewhat melancholic undertone. Although the eventsthat transpired earlier were rather disheartening, Tony seemsrelatively calm.
Justwhen the audience assumes that Tony’s life is one that is definedby loneliness, Lily and Lester bombard Tony outside the train station(TheBlonde at the Film). The cameras reveal the images of movie houses,arcades, and bars, a scene that was different a few years back, asTony puts it. At the end of the scene, Tony is seen walking away tofind the New Amsterdam Theatre. However, Penny Arcade sidetracks him.The arcade is full of color, oddities, and lights, which, to somedegree seem like a fantastical dream ballet. The colorful display is,perhaps, Minnelli`s attempt at incorporating his philosophy into thefilm. Minnelli believed that the audience was in constant desire formagic, fairy tales, and beauty. The arcade brings to bear how allthese aspects come together: the colors, oddities, and lights are anexceptional setting for the development of magic, a fairy tale, andbeauty.
Inanother scene, Tony is seen on the shoe-shine stand dancing to thetune of “Shine on My Shoes.” At first, Tony dances as he usuallydoes but, eventually, a black man joins him (The Blonde at the Film).After the dance, Tony appears more cheerfu. Minnelli`s intention ofincorporating the dance in the film may be perceived as a tactic toincorporate music into the movie. Minnelli does this to elevate themood of the audience, considering all the grief that had beendisplayed at the beginning of the film. This assertion is revealedwhen Tony joins Lily and Lester feeling and looking more cheerful.Later, Lily, Lester, and Tony meet Jeffrey Cordova.
Thenext scene depicts Lily and Lester looking completely amazed byCordova`s mastery of theater performance, but Tony seems completelyskeptical about his ability to direct a play. Minnelli, seemingly,tries to reveal the vast difference between Tony’s style of actingand Cordova’s approach to theatrical play (The Blonde at the Film).After Cordova’s performance, Lily and Lester explain the Martonshow to Jeff, and he responds by making it an adaptation of his show(Faust). Tony argues against this decision, claiming that he is onlyinterested in delighting and entertaining plays as opposed to puttingon a dark Devil drama. By bringing Tony and Cordova together,Minnelli tries to explicate the wide differences that exist in drama,and why bringing individuals that specialize in different genres isdifficult. Nevertheless, all four artists begin dancing. Byincorporating dance, Minnelli seemingly brings to the front theassertion that art can bring people together in spite of their vastdifferences in perception. A short while later, all four artists areseen conversing about how to develop a cast of the play.
Inessence, the Band Wagon can be perceived as a film within a film. Thecharacters are challenged to play roles that they are not accustomedto (TheBlonde at the Film). For instance, Tony is persuaded to feature in aplay that typifies “darkness.” On the other hand, Jeff isaccustomed to plays that depict gloom. The Marton show is acombination of both excitement and misery: Faust.Also, Charise is a ballerina who has never acted before and is afraidof dancing alongside Tony since she considers him old. However, aftersettling all their disputes, the characters decided to put all theirdifferences aside, they create a masterpiece. Minnelli`s directing,again, revealed his two primary principles: magic and beauty. Magicis revealed where all parties, despite their differences, agree towork together while beauty is revealed where everything falls intoplay to create the perfect masterpiece.
Ina recap of the above discussion, ’s style ofdirecting is renowned for developing innovative heights of intricacyin the movie musical industry in the period between the 1940s and the1950s (McElhany). Minnelli was able to capture a unique, fever-pitchsensibility that enabled him to attract both the American andEuropean cineastes. Minnelli`s love for words such as "beauty"and "magic" brought to the front a principle or philosophythat was used to distinguish Minnelli from other directors. Minnelliusually said that the audience always sought "magic" whenwatching movies thus, he always strived to incorporate this illusionin his movies. The aesthetic value of Minnelli`s films can be seenwhere a synthesis of myth, fairy-tale, comic and a world full of thepossibilities of transformation and metamorphosis is brought intoperspective.
Dirks,Tim. "Meet Me In St. Louis (1944)". Filmsite.org.N.p., 2016. Web. 15 July 2016.
McElhany,Joe. "Vincente Minnelli." Sensesof Cinema.N.p., 2004. Web. 15 July 2016.
TheBlonde at the Film, "The Band Wagon (1953)." TheBlonde at the Film.N.p., 2014. Web. 15 July 2016.