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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.
For more about Gigi and the Gigi Blu-ray release, see Gigi Blu-ray Review published by Kenneth Brown on April 1, 2009 where this Blu-ray release scored 3.5 out of 5.
Director: Vincente Minnelli
Writers: Alan Jay Lerner, Colette (I)
Starring: Leslie Caron, Maurice Chevalier, Louis Jourdan, Hermione Gingold, Eva Gabor, Isabel Jeans
» See full cast & crew
Gigi Blu-ray Review
A classic aw-shucks musical with a welcome edge...
Reviewed by Kenneth Brown, April 1, 2009
If you're old enough to remember the twenty-year reign of soaring Alan Jay Lerner and Frederick Loewe musicals or the exhilarating dominance of lighthearted love stories in the '50s, the films of legendary producer Arthur Freed and director Vincente Minnelli should be quite familiar to you. Some six years after releasing Gene Kelly's An American in Paris to swooning audiences across the country, Freed and Minnelli delivered Gigi, a film considered by many to be the last "classic" MGM musical of its time. Having never seen it before today, I found myself wondering if its critically acclaimed charms would work on a thirtysomething with a taste for bleak dramas, subversive comedies, and cynical cinema.
Based on French novelist Sidonie-Gabrielle Colette's novella of the same name, Gigi follows the naive exploits of its title character, a carefree teenager named Gilberte (Leslie Caron) whose elderly grandmother, Madame Alvarez (Hermione Gingold), and aunt Alicia (Isabel Jeans) are training her to become a Parisian escort. Ignorant of the implications and applications of their lessons, she grows increasingly infatuated with a wealthy heir named Gaston (Louis Jordan), a playboy thrust into the public spotlight after an affair with a melodramatic socialite (Eva Gabor) ends badly. However, things go awry when he begins to return similar affections and the two would-be lovers are faced with the challenge of defining their identities, their relationship, and their intentions.
Your enjoyment of Gigi will come down to your reaction to Caron's precocious portrayal of a girl lost in life and love. Her initial delivery is so whimsical and free-spirited that some will find it downright annoying while others will want to watch every minute of her maturation and emotional development. The entire film hedges on her ability to gain favor with viewers of every age and gender and, in that regard, Caron single-handedly reshapes Colette's rather contrived plot into something more than it would probably be without her infectious performance. Even those who would normally roll their eyes at the causality with which tongue-twisting songs are tossed into the fray will find something to be amused by... whether it be Caron's willful banter with Jordan, her at-times feisty interactions with Gingold and Jeans, or the simple innocence she brings to running up stairs or fiddling with a hat on a windy day. She infuses her character with everything from empowerment to self-discovery, rebellion to reluctance, and determination to independence, and it all works tremendously well.
That's not to say Gigi remains the timeless classic it was thought to be after it earned nine Academy Awards (including Best Picture, Director, and Adapted Screenplay, among others). The redundant plotting of the tale, several lapses in pacing, and a few weak supporting performances sometimes make the film feel as dated and out-of-touch as its fifty years would imply. Make no mistake, unless you're the type of person who eagerly anticipates the arrival of musicals from the Golden Age of Hollywood, Gigi will likely strike you as nothing more than a quaint and antiquated relic of a forgone era; a harmless love story with little to say about the human condition, the turmoils of shaky relationships, or the beauty of love.
Gigi Blu-ray, Video Quality
While it just falls short of Warner's concurrently released, near-perfect Blu-ray presentation of Minnelli's An American in Paris, Gigi's 1080p/VC-1 transfer is still a sight to behold. Faithful to its source, meticulously remastered, and treated with the utmost care, the film looks better than it ever has; more than likely as good as it ever will. Colors are healthy and warm (just look at those reds!), blacks are incredibly inky (at times to the picture's detriment), and contrast is fairly stable (especially for a fifty-year-old flick). Detail is also far more impressive than I expected, delivering crisp textures and refined clarity without the help of any noticeable edge enhancement or artificial sharpening. In fact, the image is wonderfully representative of the original film, boasting moderate but consistent grain fields while never resorting to any pesky noise reduction to trick the viewer into thinking they're watching a proper restoration.
Complaints? Delineation is often problematic and oppressive, faint artifacts pop up in a few shots, and skintones occasionally look flushed, pasty, or a tad orange. I should also mention that grain sometimes undermines the transfer's fine detail (even though I'd much rather deal with inherent disruptions like grain than sludge through another heavy-handed, post-processing application of DNR). Nitpicks aside, Gigi looks great in spite of its age, settling in nicely alongside Warner Brothers' ever-growing collection of eye-appealing classics available in high definition.
Gigi Blu-ray, Audio Quality
Unlike An American in Paris (which featured a decently restored mono track), Gigi arrives on Blu-ray with an above average Dolby TrueHD 5.1 remix and an underwhelming Dolby stereo track. While purists like myself will probably prefer the original presentation, the lossless audio track serves up some minor LFE support, naturally distributes ambient elements into the rear speakers, and increases the heft and clarity of the cast's speaking and singing voices. Likewise, the film's music receives a notable boost as well, offering fuller and more robust orchestration and more dynamically swelling crescendos.
Unfortunately, I've heard better catalog remixes and original audio restorations, leaving both tracks on this release wavering somewhere just above average. Treble tones are intermittently shrill and tinny, hushed lines are somewhat muddled, and channel pans are slightly inconsistent. Moreover, directionality on the 5.1 remix errs so much on the side of the front speakers that I began to wonder why Warner created a surround track in the first place. All things considered, enthusiasts will be satisfied with the results no matter which option they choose, but audiophiles will recognize that both tracks miss their ideal marks.
Gigi Blu-ray, Special Features and Extras
Matching the well-endowed feature set of the 2008 2-Disc Special Edition DVD, the Blu-ray edition of Gigi includes a decent collection of engrossing extras as well as a bonus, full-length French film. While most of the video content is presented in standard definition, fans will most likely be pleased with Warner's relatively extensive supplemental package.
Gigi Blu-ray, Overall Score and Recommendation
Gigi belongs to a dying breed of films, most of which have been shuffled off and forgotten by modern moviegoers. Thankfully, studios like Warner have seen fit to give these catalog classics new life. While it isn't the sort of flick I enjoy sitting through more than once, even I can appreciate its excellent video transfer, solid audio tracks, and unique supplemental package. I wouldn't recommend Gigi to anyone who doesn't already adore films of its ilk and era, but I'm confident that anyone who enjoys '50s musicals will get their money's worth with this release.
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• Technical Specs Revealed for Gigi; An American in Paris - January 22, 2009
Warner Home Video has announced the technical specs for the upcoming Blu-ray release of 'Gigi' and 'An American in Paris', which are both due to hit store shelves on March 31st. 'Gigi' will come on a BD-25 and feature 2.40:1 1080p video accompanied by a 5.1 Dolby ...
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