Gigi appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 2.35:1 on this single-sided, double-layered DVD; the image has been enhanced for 16X9 televisions. Though not stellar, the transfer looked pretty good.
For the most part, sharpness seemed fine. Softness affected some wider shots, though not on a consistent basis. The majority of the flick appeared reasonably crisp and concise, but the softness was an occasional distraction. No issues with jagged edges or edge haloes materialized, but I noticed a smidgen of shimmering at times. No source flaws cropped up through the film. Some minor grain could be seen, but I discerned no instances of specks, marks or other debris.
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. Not too many problems developed during this satisfying transfer.
Gigi offered a Dolby Digital 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 2008 Special Edition compare to those of the original 2000 DVD? The visuals demonstrated substantial improvements. The old disc was a muddy mess, so the new transfer came across as substantially superior.
Though not as big a step up in quality, the audio also worked better here. The old mix suffered from some awkward panning and localization. While not as ambitious in its soundfield, the 2008 track meshed together better and proved more satisfying.
While the 2000 release included skimpy extras, the 2008 SE provides a more dynamic slate of supplements. On DVD One, 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 quite 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 on DVD One. 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.
One odd choice: though the packaging touts Duck as a Cinemascope presentation, only the opening and closing credits appear in the original 2.35:1 aspect ratio; the DVD crops the rest to 1.78:1. Why do that?
Over on DVD Two, we get a new 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, DVD Two 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 sugar-coated 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 DVD offers fairly good picture and audio along with a few useful supplements.
Because I donít care for Gigi as a film, I canít recommend it to those without a pre-existing affection for it. As for its fans, this Special Edition clearly deserves their attention. That goes for those who already own the prior DVD; the new one greatly improves on the awful visual quality of its predecessor. I may not care for Gigi as a movie, but this DVD represents it pretty well.