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

The First Lerner-Loewe Musical Since My Fair Lady.

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:
$3.319 million.
Domestic Gross
$7.321 million.

Rated G

Widescreen 2.35:1/16X9
English Dolby Digital 5.1
French Monaural
Supplements Subtitles:

Runtime: 116 min.
Price: $20.97
Release Date: 9/16/2008

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


Panasonic 50" TH-50PZ77U 1080p Plasma Monitor; Harman/Kardon DPR 2005 7.1 Channel Receiver; Toshiba A-30 HD-DVD/1080p Upconverting DVD Player using HDMI outputs; Michael Green Revolution Cinema 6i Speakers (all five); Kenwood 1050SW 150-watt Subwoofer.


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Gigi: Special Edition (1958)

Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (October 9, 2008)

Yay! My trek through four straight Best Picture-winning musicals nears its end! Despite my distaste for the genre, 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? 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, but was it a happy or logical one?

Not in my book. 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 DVD Grades: Picture B/ Audio B+/ Bonus B+

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.

Viewer Film Ratings: 3.75 Stars Number of Votes: 4
2 3:
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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