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WARNER

MOVIE INFO

Director:
Vincente Minnelli
Cast:
Leslie Caron, Maurice Chevalier, Louis Jourdan, Hermione Gingold, Eva Gabor, Jacques Bergerac, Isabel Jeans, John Abbott
Writing Credits:
Colette (novel), Alan Jay Lerner

Tagline:
The First Lerner-Loewe Musical Since My Fair Lady.

Synopsis:
Set in Paris at the turn of the century, this delightful Lerner and Loewe musical, based on a story by Collette, follows a precocious French girl as she is groomed into a would-be courtesan, blossoming into a stunning woman. The story provides plenty of opportunity for Minnelli and MGM to pull out all the stops in its first musical production shot on location. Paris and Caron never looked lovelier, and Jourdan and Chevalier are so French, no? Songs include: "Gigi," "Thank Heaven for Little Girls," and "Ah, Yes, I Remember It Well."

Box Office:
Budget
$3.319 million.
Domestic Gross
$7.321 million.

MPAA:
Rated G

DVD DETAILS
Presentation:
Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1
Audio:
English Dolby Digital 5.1
English Dolby TrueHD 5.1
French Monaural
Italian Monaural
German Monaural
Castillian Spanish Monaural
Spanish Monaural
Subtitles:
English
French
German
Italian
Spanish
Portuguese
Castillian Spanish
Dutch
Portuguese
Danish
Finnish
Norwegian
Swedish
Brazilian Portuguese
Closed-captioned
Supplements Subtitles:
English
French
German
Italian
Spanish
Portuguese

Runtime: 116 min.
Price: $24.98
Release Date: 3/31/2009

Bonus:
• Audio Commentary with Actor Leslie Caron and Film Historian Jeanine Basinger
The Million Dollar Nickel Vintage Short
The Vanishing Duck Classic Cinemascope Cartoon
• Trailer
• ďThank Heaven! The Making of GigiĒ Documentary
• 1949 Non-Musical Screen Version of Gigi


PURCHASE @ AMAZON.COM

EQUIPMENT
Panasonic 50" TH-50PZ77U 1080p Plasma Monitor; Sony STR-DG1200 7.1 Channel Receiver; Panasonic DMP-BD60K Blu-Ray Player using HDMI outputs; Michael Green Revolution Cinema 6i Speakers (all five); Kenwood 1050SW 150-watt Subwoofer.

RELATED REVIEWS


Gigi [Blu-Ray] (1958)

Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (July 10, 2012)

When I first reviewed Gigi in 2000, I did so as part of an attempt to fill out our special Oscar Best Pictures page. This led me to a consecutive string of musicals, and that didnít make me happy, as Iíve never been a fan of that genre.

Despite my distaste for musicals, I found West Side Story and especially My Fair Lady to offer surprisingly enjoyable experiences. Would 1958's Gigi make it a hat trick?

Nope, though the prospect seemed possible when one considers Gigi's pedigree. After all, it was penned by Lerner and Loewe, the team that experienced so much success with the stage production of Lady, and it even shared some of the same talent with that movie, such as production designer Cecil Beaton.

Gigi displays other qualities in common with Lady, such as a similar plot. Basically both films concern the social grooming of a couple of young women. However, Eliza Doolittle was taken from a situation in which she was poor, uncouth and unhappy to a place where she became successful and loved; although they occurred for callous and mercenary reasons, clearly Henry Higgins' interventions were positive.

The same seems less certain in Gigi. At the start, our title character - played by lovely Leslie Caron, who feels believably teenaged although she was actually 27 years old at the time - is a happy, exuberant young lady in turn of the 20th century Paris. Playboy Gaston (Louis Jourdan) feels bored with all the silly social climbing in the city and he becomes taken with Gigi's irrepressible charm.

So far so good, right? Indeed, this sounds like a standard formula for a nice romantic ending. Well, yes and no. (Note: if you don't want to know how the movie concludes, jump ahead now! I try to avoid anything that resembles a spoiler, but I need to discuss the ending to make it clear why I disliked the film.)

Once it becomes clear to Gigi's meddling Aunt Alicia (Isabel Jeans) that she can latch onto hunky Gaston, she intensifies the grooming lessons she'd already put into place for Gigi. Toward the end of the film, it becomes clear that these have made Gigi into exactly the kind of vapid, status-obsessed bimbo of the sort Gaston had become tired. When he recognizes this, he initially goes ballistic, but then mysteriously rethinks things and goes back to hook up with her again. The end Ė but was it a happy or logical one?

Not in my book. In fact, I kept wondering if I missed something. I expected a scene in which Gaston told Gigi that he didn't care about her refined personality and he wanted the exciting little babe she used to be.

However, that never occurred. Gaston comes back to Gigi in her phony and manipulated state, theoretically to live happily ever after. Score one for the Stepford wives.

Even if I'd enjoyed the prior portions of the film, that ending would have left me cold. As it stands, the majority of Gigi is a lovely trifle. It presents some gorgeous vistas and costumes, and the tunes are relatively tolerable, though I must admit that hearing 70-year-old Maurice Chevalier croon "Thank Heaven for Little Girls" seems creepy in today's climate. It's not actually a paean to pedophilia - after all, Chevalier makes it clear he digs little girls because they get big eventually - but it comes uncomfortably close to that territory.

In any case, other than pretty pictures and some hummable songs, Gigi has little to offer. I got the feeling the whole project existed to capitalize on the stage success of Lady. Apparently it took quite a while to negotiate screen rights for the latter, so Gigi looks like an attempt to cash in via a similar property.

It doesn't work. Yes, Lady features a pretty slim plot as well, but at least the characters are interesting and the situations entertaining. Nothing in Gigi seems clever or compelling, and that ending really harms the entire project. Ultimately, it's a dull, lifeless production that made me wish I was watching Lady instead.


The Blu-ray Grades: Picture B+/ Audio B+/ Bonus B+

Gigi appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 2.35:1 on this Blu-ray Disc. The movie boasted a pretty stellar transfer that was limited only due to the circumstances of the source.

For the most part, sharpness seemed fine. Softness affected some wider shots, though not on a consistent basis. The majority of the flick appeared crisp and concise, and the occasional instance of softness could be chalked up to the original photography, which hasnít always aged well. No issues with jagged edges or edge haloes materialized, and shimmering was absent. Source flaws were minor, as only a couple of small specks appeared.

Colors often looked quite positive. The movie featured a pastel palette that showed up nicely here. The various hues demonstrated nice clarity and vivacity. Only skin tones seemed a bit off, as they looked a little brown. Nonetheless, the colors usually were more than satisfactory.

Blacks showed good depth and darkness. Shadow detail wasn't much of a concern in this brightly-lit movie. In fact, the only time I really noticed it was toward the end when Jourdan did a nighttime number. I thought the shadows were appropriately opaque without much heaviness. Even with some softness at times, the vast majority of Gigi boasted strong visuals.

Gigi offered a Dolby TrueHD 5.1 soundtrack. On the positive side, the music displayed fine stereo separation and breadth, and the songs all sounded very clear and crisp. Since this was a musical, it's very important that the tunes were portrayed in the best possible light, and this presentation did nicely.

Dialogue was more of a mixed bag. For the most part, I found speech to sound clean and acceptably natural. Recordings from the era always betray some thinness, but the dialogue here seemed relatively warm. The mix used some localized speech that worked reasonably well. Sometimes the placement was a bit off, but the lines usually popped up in the logical spots.

Effects also panned between channels, but this was done to a more gentle degree. Those elements added a little life to the mix. They didnít have a ton to do, but they seemed positive for a film of this sort.

I also noticed occasional lip-synch problems, which were more evident in the songs. Some of the speech was dubbed awkwardly, and at times during music, the mouths just didn't match the lyrics well. I got the impression these problems stemmed from the source, not from the transfer. Despite some of these issues, the audio to Gigi usually worked nicely, it the mix seemed above average for its age.

How did the picture and audio of this Blu-ray compare to those of the 2008 Special Edition DVD? The audio was a wash, as I didnít think the lossless TrueHD track was any better than the original DD 5.1 mix. With 50-year-old source material, there wasnít much that would make a difference in quality between the two.

Visuals demonstrated more apparent improvements. The Blu-ray looked substantially sharper and more vivid than the DVD. Much of the Blu-ray really excelled; thereís just no way a DVD could keep up with it.

The Blu-ray includes the same extras as the 2008 DVD. We start with an audio commentary from actor Leslie Caron and film historian Jeanine Basinger. We get a running, screen-specific chat from Basinger into which the producers insert occasional remarks from Caron. The actress pops up only briefly; she tells us a bit about her work on the film, but she fails to add much to the experience. Basinger carries the chat with notes about cast and crew, sets and shooting on location, costume and art design, songs and score, the source text and its path to the screen, characters and performances, and issues with the Production Code.

In other words, Basinger gives us at least a little about a lot. She covers all the major bases and does so with enthusiasm. I donít agree with her affection for the film, of course, but I think she provides a very good commentary that offers a nice overview of the flick.

In addition to the movieís theatrical trailer, two vintage shorts appear. We get a live-action piece called The Million Dollar Nickel and a Cinemascope cartoon titled The Vanishing Duck. The former lasts nine minutes, 30 seconds, while the latter goes for seven minutes, eight seconds.

Nickel has little to do with coins. Instead, it tells us of the wonders of mail. At the time, overseas mail cost a nickel, so that inspired the title; we learn how letters spread the wonderful gospel of America around the world. Itís a puff piece that feels like the Postal Service created it. (By the way, it connects to Gigi because Leslie Caron and Eva Gabor briefly appear in it.)

As for Duck, the Tom and Jerry cartoon features a new feathered arrival in Tomís house. He attempts to eat the duck, but Jerry works to save the little guy. Iím not a big T&J fan, and the short never becomes particularly memorable, partially because it feels like a rip-off of other cartoons. For instance, the disappearing bird comes straight from a war-time Donald Duck short, and the titular duck himself resembles Tweety Bird to a moderate degree.

Positive note: while the DVD perversely decided to crop the Cinemascope short to 1.78:1, the Blu-ray presents it in its full 2.35:1 glory.

Next we get a documentary called Thank Heaven! The Making of Gigi. In this 35-minute and 45-second piece, we get the standard mix of movie clips, archival elements, and interviews. We hear from Caron, film historian Dr. Drew Casper, authors Hugh Fordin, Gene Lees, and Diane LeBow, director Vincente Minnelli, Arthur Freedís former secretary Mildred Kaufman, and music and film historian Gary Giddins. ďHeavenĒ examines the source material and its adaptation as a musical, cast and performances, censorship issues, costumes, the movieís music and choreography, shooting in France and production problems, and the flickís release/reception/legacy.

While we barely hear from Caron in the commentary, she provides a much more involved presence here. The actor throws out a lot of good stories and notes in this piece. We also get to compare Caronís original vocals with the dubbed singing in the final flick. The rest of the participants chime in with plenty of their own facts, and they help make this a solid examination of the film.

Finally, the set also provides the 1949 Non-Musical Screen Version of Gigi. The French film runs one hour, 22 minutes, and 32 seconds as it presents its own take on the story. Actually, it shares a lot with the musical version, though it features a less sugarcoated view of its subject matter. This edition makes it much more obvious Gigi is being groomed to be a mistress, and it casts things in a moderately grittier light. It comes across as a bit tawdrier since it doesnít suffer from the Production Code issues that affect the musical. Itís quite interesting to see this flick as a contrast to the more famous Hollywood version.

Gigi is a triumph of form over substance. While the film looks lovely, it portrays a shallow plot with some distasteful components. The Blu-ray offers very good picture and audio along with a few useful supplements. Bar none, this is by far the best representation of the film on the market.

To rate this film, visit the Special Edition review of GIGI

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Review Archive:  # | A-C | D-F | G-I | J-L | M-O | P-R | S-U | V-Z | Viewer Ratings | Main