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5.0 out of 5 stars Special Edition gets Ultra-Resolution Process, July 2, 2008
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This review is from: An American in Paris (Two-Disc Special Edition) (DVD)
Warner Brothers' proprietary Ultra-Resolution process has brought new life to such classics as "The Wizard of Oz," "Gone With the Wind," Errol Flynn's "Robin Hood," and "Singin' in the Rain." By going back to the original three-strip technicolor negatives and realigning them digitally, the color and detail blows away anything that customers have seen in the past with home video. "An American In Paris" has now undergone the same process. For those that have a blu-ray player, be sure to order this version, An American in Paris [Blu-ray]. Here is a list of extras that are the same on both versions:

Disc 1:
1.33:1 Full Screen with Original Mono audio * Tech Specs for Blu-ray version: Video is 1080P 1.33:1 * Audio is English, French, Spanish (Both Castilian and Latin), German and Italian DD1.0 * Subtitles (Main Feature): English, French, Spanish, Danish, Dutch, Finnish, German, Italian, Japanese, Norwegian, Portuguese, Swedish * Subtitles (on Select Bonus Material): English, French, Spanish, Dutch, Italian, Japanese, Portuguese
1938 MGM short: Paris on Parade
1951 MGM cartoon: Symphony in Slang
Theatrical trailer

Disc 2:

2002 American Masters Documentary: Gene Kelly: Anatomy of a Dancer (Gene Kelly - Anatomy of a Dancer)

`S Wonderful: The Making of An American in Paris, an all new documentary, produced especially for this release. A dynamic history of the making of the film, which reveals how George and Ira Gershwin's classic songs, the dazzling art of the French impressionists and the ultimate teamwork of MGM's legendary "Freed Unit" came together to create a musical masterpiece. Featuring ten new interviews, including co-stars Leslie Caron, Nina Foch, and Kelly's widow. A very enlightening piece; Caron's memories are probably the most interesting, with Foch running a close 2nd. Caron's comments about co-star Georges Guétary being handsome but not too bright seem to be echoed by Kelly's widow, who says Gene spent more time trying to teach him how to gracefully walk down a set of steps than on anything else in the film. It is unfortunate that Maurice Chevalier could not have taken that role as originally intended. You also realize just how revolutionary this movie was (artistically), especially because of the 17-minute ballet tacked on at the end of the movie. Even Irving Berlin disapproved during an on-set visit, which didn't help the confidence of Vincente Minnelli at all.

Outtakes:
Georges Guetary performing Love Walked In (not missed in the movie at all!)

Audio Outtakes: Alternate Main Title, But Not for Me (Guetary), But Not for Me (Levant Piano Solo), Gershwin Prelude #3, I've Got a Crush on You, Nice Work if You Can Get It, 'S Wonderful

Radio Interviews: Johnny Green, Gene Kelly, Gene Kelly & Leslie Caron;
Gene Kelly and Leslie Caron promotional radio interview with Dick Simmons

Not all of the original musical recording stems have survived over the years, preventing a true stereo/5.1 restoration of the soundtrack; instead, a restored mono version is being made available.

Most are familiar with the movie; storywise, it is a little creaky and hasn't necessarily survived well over the years: Kelly is an American artist living in Paris. He falls in love with a young girl (Leslie Caron) who is in a loveless relationship with one of his best friends (Guétary). Kelly is also in somewhat of a loveless relationship with his financial sponsor (Nina Foch). You can probably guess the rest.

The glowing color, fantastic music by Gershwin (arrangements by the talented Conrad Salinger), and the amazing choreography of Gene Kelly will keep this one a classic for years to come despite a predictable plot. Just the ending ballet alone is a masterpiece; the art of Toulouse Lautrec and Utrillo comes to life with Gene Kelly & Leslie Caron dancing their hearts out to some of the most imaginative choreography (Kelly's) in years. The Freed Unit at MGM was at their peak when this movie was made, and this is one of the last great ones that it created.

It is a real shame that with how fantastic the picture is (the colors literally leap off the screen, and it really adds to the appreciation of what an artistically beautiful visual feast this movie is) that the sound cannot match. Although it is clear and free of problems, the Gershwin music just begs for a 5.1 or 7.1 surround track; unfortunately, due to the age and availability of the original elements, this is not possible.
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Showing 1-10 of 14 posts in this discussion
Initial post: Jan 25, 2010 1:37:10 PM PST
Last edited by the author on Jan 25, 2010 2:27:05 PM PST
Glow Worm says:
Guetary was charming in this film (more likeable than the brash stuck on himself Jerry) and his voice beautifully complimented Kelly's in the film's iconic "S'Wonderful", more so than Chevalier would have. Gertary's "I'll Build A Stairway" number was fantastic.

Truth to tell, Caron needed A LOT of rehearsal from Gene Kelly herself.

In reply to an earlier post on Jan 25, 2010 4:02:02 PM PST
Dave says:
Yes, Guetary is charming, but his character is supposed to be much older than Caron, which Guetary just does not convey. Curious as to your source about Caron needing a lot of training from Kelly? Her classical dance training was far superior to Kelly's, and is evident when comparing their form.

In reply to an earlier post on Jun 8, 2010 4:54:28 AM PDT
Though I obviously do not know Glow Worm's source, I know an excellent one: the interview with Ms Caron on disc 2 of the Singing in the Rain DVD set. She candidly speaks of having to be taught to dance with knees forward (rather than out to the side, as she had been taught from childhood), and how several styles were totally knew to her, including the "exciting" segment in her introduction to us all. (If you are wondering how I remember this so well, I just watched it again 2 days ago.) :)

In reply to an earlier post on Apr 13, 2011 4:50:47 AM PDT
point 1: Ultra Resolution is not a proprietary process. Disney does the same thing.,
point 2: It's highly unlikely "An American in Paris" was recorded in stereo. Stereo tape recorders did not come into use until around 1953. If it was recorded using RCA's multi-track optical system, an ersatz-stereo track could be created. Does anyone know?

In reply to an earlier post on Apr 13, 2011 6:16:57 AM PDT
Dave says:
William:

For point 1: While Disney might do the same thing, Warner & AOL are the ones that developed the Ultra Resolution process and were even nominated for a Tech Oscar. Very easy to find this info on the web.

For your point 2: MGM recorded their orchestrations from multiple angles to mix a more balanced monaural soundtrack. For the movies that these "stems" survived, the technicians of today have been able to remix them to a true stereo.

You can find all this info very easily through google as well as reading the liner notes for the re-releases of most of the MGM musical soundtracks.

In reply to an earlier post on Apr 13, 2011 7:40:31 AM PDT
The process of scanning the three original Technicolor negatives, then combining them, is obvious and unpatentable. There is no "conceptual" development involved, though I'm sure Warners and Disney had to resolve a lot of practical problems.

After RCA introduced its 7-track optical recorder in the mid-30s, it was used for soundtracks, to the end (as you say) of getting good balance in the final mono soundtrack. (The seven tracks could be used any way desired, but one of them was commonly used as a full-mix "safety", just in case something went wrong.) "Fantasia" is the best example of a film that used this recorder.

At that time, most mics were omnidirectional, which meant there was still a fair amount of bleed among the sections of the orchestra. When the tracks are panned to produce a "stereo" image, the result is rather "swimmy". (I'm judging by an earlier home-video version of "Wizard of Oz" that had such a soundtrack. The Blu-ray seems to have reverted to mono.) "Orchestra Wives" and "Sun Valley Serenade" have also been remixed this way, but I don't remember whether I've heard them. ("The Glen Miller Story" of 1953 is real stereo.)

Though these new mixes should be a big improvement over mono, whether they are "true" stereo is debatable. To me, "stereo" requires two mics, either coincident or not widely separated. Panning multiple mono sources does not produce "true" stereo.

The development of theatrical stereo sound is covered in some depth at the site www.widescreenmuseum.com. If you've never visited this site, put aside a few /days/ to browse it. You will be hooked.

In reply to an earlier post on Apr 13, 2011 8:13:39 AM PDT
Dave says:
William - The use of the computer to fix the stretching/shrinking, etc. that occured over the years is the key to the Ultaresolution process. It enabled an alignment that was never possible before. This is the part that allowed the patent (they actually had at least 4 for this process). You can read about it here:

http://www.filmbuffonline.com/News/2007/January/UltraResolutionProcessNominated.htm

Back to point two: I never said it was recorded in stereo; that is something you interpreted. Have you listened to any of the MGM musicals that have used the original stems remixed? It's pretty amazing.

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