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movie reviewmovie reviewvideo review out of 4 Movie Review: Gigi

Starring: Maurice Chevalier, Leslie Caron
Director: Vincente Minnelli
Rated: G
RunTime: 116 Minutes
Release Date: May 1958
Genres: Classic, Drama, Music

*Also starring: Louis Jourdan, Hermione Gingold, Eva Gabor, Jacques Bergerac

Review by Brian Koller
2½ stars out of 4

"Gigi" dominated the 1959 Academy Awards. It won nine Oscars, sweeping all the non-acting categories. Best Picture, Best Director (Vincente Minnelli), Best Adapted Screenplay (Alan Jay Lerner), Best Color Cinematography (Joseph Ruttenberg). Also best sets, best costumes, best song, best score, and best editing.

Like "My Fair Lady", "Gigi" is a musical adaptation of a novel about a young woman who rises from poverty to riches. Elaborately staged, heavily orchestrated, with clever but carefully inoffensive lyrics, both films dubbed the voice of the female lead, as a pretty face must have a pretty voice.

Gigi, although played by 27-year-old Leslie Caron (the ingenue from "An American in Paris"), is a young teenager who has lived a sheltered life despite coming from a family of mistresses. Her mother is an unseen minor opera singer; while she often rehearses offscreen in another room, she doesn't make an appearance even as Gigi is repeatedly visited by famous wealthy playboy Gaston (Louis Jourdan). Gigi is raised by Hermione Gingold, and trained to be a lady by imperious Isabel Jeans.

Gaston receives training of his own, from his mentor and relative Honore (Maurice Chevalier). Chevalier is most famous in America for his first number, "Thank Heaven for Little Girls" (when Broadway next revives the play, expect 'Pretty' to be substituted for 'Little'). However, the best production number is "The Night They Invented Champagne". Here, the choreography is excellent, although it is difficult to believe that Gigi would be able to make the wordly, clever comments that the lyrics gives her.

The Gaston-Gigi romance provides the context for the musical's lampooning the elaborate Victorian-era ritual built around men obtaining sex, and women obtaining security. They have to work so hard at attaining their differing ends that they can't long savor their fleeting victories. Gaston's intensity at courtship is contrasted with affable Honore, who pursues woman without emotional involvement or any intentions of marriage. "Gigi" seems to side with Honore, despite the inevitable happy ending for Gigi and Gaston.

Copyright 1995 Brian Koller

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