Lively, entertaining reviews of, and essays on, old and newer films and everything relating to them, written by professional author William Schoell.

Thursday, December 13, 2018

GIGI

Louis Jourdan and Leslie Caron
GIGI (1958). Director: Vincente Minelli.

Gigi (Leslie Caron) is a young French girl (of about sixteen?) who is being raised by her grandmother, Madame Alvarez (Hermione Gingold). She is also taught lessons in deportment by her Aunt Alicia (Isabel Jeans), as it seems the girl is being groomed to be the courtesan to some wealthy man to avoid a life of comparative poverty. Gigi's mother is not in the picture.


The title tune: "What miracle has made you the way you are?
Gigi and her grandmother have been befriended by wealthy sugar manufacturer and playboy Gaston Lachaille (Louis Jourdan), who thinks Gigi is just a charming child until ... Could Gaston be the man who will wind up keeping Gigi, but will the independent-minded Gigi even go for this arrangement? Gigi first came to life in a 1944 novella by the French writer Colette. It was made into a film in 1949 in France, and then turned into a 1951 Broadway play starring Audrey Hepburn. Lyricist and librettist Alan Jay Lerner and composer Frederick Loewe turned it into a musical film in 1958 (not bringing it to Broadway until 1973),

"I Remember It Well"
Leslie Caron made the perfect choice to play the lead role. (Hepburn was a little too old at that time and certainly not French.) One could argue that the storyline is slight, an inferior variation on Lerner and Loewe's My Fair Lady, and there are other things you could quibble about, but it has a pleasant score and is extremely well-acted by Caron and everyone else. This, of course, includes Maurice Chevalier [Love Me Tonight], who plays Gaston's uncle, and gets to sing "Thank Heaven for Little Girls" and "I'm Glad I'm Not Young Anymore," as well as the amusing and sentimental number "I Remember It Well," a duet with Gingold. Arguably the two most memorable songs are the bouncy "The Night They Invented Champagne" and the soaring title tune sung by Gaston. Eva Gabor [The Mad Magician] and Jacques Bergerac [Twist of Fate] are fun as Gaston's lover Liane, and her skating instructor, with whom she has the audacity to have a romantic rendezvous.

Despite the satisfying ending are there perhaps undertones of misogyny behind the ever-so-polite and genteel goings-on? One doesn't think too much of the grandmother and aunt who expect Gigi to be, in some ways, little better than a prostitute. And Gaston, a wealthy man in Paris who sings about being eternally bored, is not very sympathetic. Rich and living in Paris -- and bored! What the f--k is his problem?  Like many early CinemaScope movies there is a scarcity of close-ups that might pull the viewer more into the action and the movie is only on occasion cinematic. And what on earth was Minelli thinking in the second scene at Maxim's where he allows an anxious extra -- a lady at the next table -- to repeatedly distract the audience's attention away from Gaston and Gigi? Still Gigi is entertaining and classy, and if you can ignore its hokier aspects you may find it charming. It won the Best Picture Oscar.

Verdict: A sugary confection. ***1/2. 

4 comments:

Usama butt said...
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angelman66 said...

You have made me want to watch this one again, Bill; it is a delight despite its not-politically-correct storyline of a courtesan-in-training (though it seems a glamorous way to live!!)...one of Minnelli's very best. A banquet in every way. "I remember it well!"
This is perfect to watch during the holiday season!
-Chris

William said...

Yes, it's a good choice for the holidays. And you're right that a lot off people wouldn't mind being put up in a beautiful house with servants and a limo and all the rest, especially if the "employer" looked like Louis Jourdan, LOL! But must people in that situation would wind up with elderly Chevalier!

M Tech said...
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