TOP 1000 REVIEWERon 27 May 2013
GIGI  [Blu-ray] [US Import] A Stylish Triumph From Start To Finish! The First Lerner-Loewe Musical Since My Fair Lady!
Home, motorcar, servants, and the latest fashion. Here we have man about town Gaston Lachaille [Louis Jordan] offers them all to Gigi [Leslie Caron]. But she, who’s gone from girlish gawkiness to cultured glamour before our eyes, and yearns for something that money can’t buy. Producers Arthur Freed, director Vincente Minnelli and a cast rife with Gallic charm. Its Alan Jay Lerner and Fredrick Loewe song sparkle like “The Night They Invented Champagne” or caress with title-tune tenderness “I Remember It Well” where Maurice Chevalier sings to Hermione Gingold. You’ll remember ‘GIGI’ forever! New digital transfer from restored picture and audio elements.
FILM FACT: ‘GIGI’ won a record-breaking 9 Academy Awards® at the 1959 Awards Ceremony; which are as follows: Winner for Best Picture. Winner for Best Director for Vincente Minnelli. Winner for Best Adapted Screenplay for Alan Jay Lerner. Winner for Best Art Direction for E. Preston Ames, F. Keogh Gleason, Henry Grace, and William A. Horning. Winner for Best Cinematography for Joseph Ruttenberg. Winner for Best Costume Design for Cecil Beaton. Winner for Best Film Editing for Adrienne Fazan. Winner for Best Original Score for André Previn. Winner for Best Original Song for "Gigi" by Alan Jay Lerner and Frederick Loewe. Golden Globe® Awards: Winner for Best Motion Picture for Musical or Comedy. Winner for Vincente Minnelli for Best Director for Motion Picture. Winner for Hermione Gingold for Best Supporting Actress for Motion Picture. Nominee for Leslie Caron for Best Actress for Motion Picture Musical or Comedy. Nominee for Maurice Chevalier for Best Actor for Motion Picture Musical or Comedy. Nominee for Louis Jourdan for Best Actor for Motion Picture Musical or Comedy. Winners for Vincente Minnelli and assistant director George Vieira for Directors Guild of America Award for Outstanding Directing for a Feature Film. The film title design uses the artwork of Sem's work from the Belle Époque. In tribute to ‘GIGI’ and its domination of the OSCARS® the M-G-M switchboard answered calls the following day with "M-Gigi-M."
Cast: Leslie Caron, Maurice Chevalier, Louis Jourdan, Hermione Gingold, Eva Gabor, Jacques Bergerac, Isabel Jeans, John Abbott, Marie-Hélène Arnaud (uncredited), Jack Ary (uncredited), Richard Bean (uncredited), Cecil Beaton (uncredited), Jacques Bertrand (uncredited), Hubert de Lapparent (uncredited), Cilly Feindt (uncredited), Edwin Jerome (uncredited), Corinne Marchand (uncredited), Maurice Marsac (uncredited), Anne-Marie Mersen (uncredited), Bernard Musson (uncredited), Dorothy Neumann (uncredited), Jean Ozenne (uncredited), Maruja Plose (uncredited), Roger Saget (uncredited), Pat Sheehan (uncredited), François Valorbe (uncredited) and Betty Wand (Gigi singing voice) (uncredited)
Director: Vincente Minnelli
Producer: Arthur Freed
Screenplay: Alan Jay Lerner, Niven Busch (uncredited) and Colette (based on the novel)
Composer: Frederick Loewe, André Previn (uncredited) and Conrad Salinger (uncredited)
Cinematography: Joseph Ruttenberg and Ray June (uncredited)
Costume Design: Cecil Beaton
Resolution: 1080p [Metrocolor]
Aspect Ratio: 2.40:1 [CinemaScope]
Audio: English: 5.1 Dolby TrueHD, English: 5.1 Dolby Digital, French: 2.0 Dolby Digital, Spanish: 1.0 Dolby Digital Mono, German: 1.0 Dolby Digital Mono and Italian: 1.0 Dolby Digital Mono
Subtitles: English, French, Spanish, Portuguese, Japanese, German, Italian, Danish, Dutch, Finnish, Norwegian and Swedish
Running Time: 115 minutes
Region: Region A/1
Number of discs: 1
Studio: Warner Home Video
Andrew’s Blu-ray Review: Some have called 'GIGI' a French version of 'My Fair Lady,' and the comparison makes sense, to a degree. Both musicals were written by the legendary team of Alan Jay Lerner and Frederick Loewe; both were adapted from well-regarded literary works by Colette and George Bernard Shaw, respectively; and both detail the transformation of an awkward, unrefined duckling into a graceful, sophisticated swan. Eliza Doolittle is groomed by Henry Higgins to be a lady, while Gigi is tutored by her elderly Aunt Alicia to be a courtesan or mistress and a woman of quality who gives her man undivided attention, companionship, and, yes, her body in return for economic security, travel, and a high-class lifestyle. When her lover tires of her, and he most assuredly will, she finds another man, then another, and another. As her dowager Aunt Alicia [Isabel Jeans] tells the impressionable Gigi [Leslie Caron], "Instead of getting married at once, it sometimes happens we get married last."
That's a bitter pill for a teenager to swallow and a heavy weight to hang on a musical, but the magic of 'GIGI' is its ability to gloss over such tawdry details and concentrate on the charming characters, engaging songs, and glorious Parisian locations of Vincente Minnelli's OSCAR® winning film. As bubbly as a champagne cocktail and sumptuous as foie gras, 'GIGI' is the last of the great M-G-M musicals, and though it's far from my personal favourite, there's no denying its beauty, style, and lyrical grace. To enter the world of 'GIGI' is to be transported to turn-of-the-century Paris and immersed in its intoxicating culture. From the Bois de Boulogne to the Place de la Concorde to Maxim's iconic restaurant, 'GIGI' celebrates the City of Light like few other films. And as seen through the eyes of bon vivant extraordinaire Maurice Chevalier, the story adopts an irresistible airy quality that belies its underlying substance. The wink on the cover art says it all.
Gigi lives with her flighty mother (who remains an unseen presence throughout the film) and wise, practical grand-mère [Hermione Gingold] in a modest Paris apartment reflective of their limited means. Twice a week, the effervescent teen meets her dour, well-to-do Aunt Alicia for lunch, where she learns how to eat exotic food, pick out cigars, and distinguish real pearls from those that are "dipped" and all in preparation for her future responsibilities. Occasionally, the obscenely rich and quite eligible Gaston Lachaille [Louis Jourdan], an old family friend, takes a break from his tedious schedule of fancy parties and ritzy social engagements to drop by their humble abode and enjoy the simple bourgeois pleasures of chamomile tea and a spirited game of cards with Gigi. Though she's several years his junior, Gigi connects with Gaston Lachaille like none of his hot-to-trot girlfriends, and as she grows up, their bond solidifies, ultimately prompting a business proposal that will alter their relationship forever.
Opulence defines Vincente Minnelli's musicals, and 'GIGI,' for which the director won a well-deserved OSCAR® and is arguably his trademark film. Sets and costumes are meticulously designed and coordinated to produce eye-filling images, and the simply staged songs grow naturally out of the story. No production numbers or overblown fantasy ballets disrupt the leisurely flow, and though not a lot of plot transpires, the mood and structure Vincente Minnelli creates sustains the film.
As does Alan Jay Lerner and Frederick Loewe’s delightful score, which includes such gems as “Thank Heaven for Little Girls,” the melodic title tune, Maurice Chevalier's jaunty “I'm Glad I'm Not Young Anymore,” the buoyant “The Night They Invented Champagne,” and the priceless duet, I Remember It Well, performed with wit and warmth by Hermione Gingold and Maurice Chevalier, who wryly recall their past love affair. Though Leslie Caron's vocals are dubbed and Louis Jourdan speaks-sings his numbers á la Rex Harrison, both performers possess such charisma, we forget their limitations.
If you count the special OSCAR® Maurice Chevalier received for his "contributions to the world of entertainment," 'GIGI' garnered a total of 10 Academy Awards® [see information above]. Yet even such effusive industry praise couldn't save the old-style M-G-M musical. Changing audience taste and the demise of the studio system conspired to make 'GIGU' the last of its breed, but thanks to the artistry of Vincente Minnelli, producer Arthur Freed, and their peerless creative team, the era ended on a high note.
Blu-ray Video Quality – 'GIGI' was long overdue for a high definition makeover, especially with its encoded 1080p transfer and has been given a major improvement over the banged up, scratch-ridden print that graced Warner's previous standard-definition inferior NTSC DVD format. Vincente Minnelli's film certainly has never looked better, and fans should be quite pleased with this rendering, which really brings out all the joie de vivre of the Paris locations and fine details of the movie's impeccable production design. Despite the use of single-strip Metrocolor, hues burst forth and, for the most part, look realistic. The one exception might be the plush red that envelops Gigi's apartment; it's intentionally garish and the transfer pushes it to the limit, but it resists bleeding. The cloudless Parisian skyline are often breath-taking, and no banding breaks up the sea of deep blue, while the pastel costumes exhibit plenty of vibrancy and texture. Flesh tones can look a little ruddy, but blacks are luxuriously rich, and nice depth and delineation distinguish the lovely exterior night scenes. Clarity is quite good, with background elements possessing good detail levels, but because of the wide aspect ratio, close-ups seem a bit remote and don't flaunt all the 1080p HD facets that would lend the transfer more dimensionality. Warner Home Video deserves kudos for maintaining the original look and feel of this 50-year-old film, and not resorting to edge enhancement and digital noise reduction to obtain a sleeker, more "modern" look. Still, the amount of grain present in the picture really surprised me, especially for a movie from the late 1950s. From the opening credits onward, grain is very noticeable, but it blends well into the image, lending it a slight antiquated quality that suits the period setting. Best of all, every single blemish afflicting the previous transfer has been erased. No more nicks or grit dot the print, and all those annoying vertical lines, bleach spots, and reel change markers that previously obscured the beauty of this Oscar-winning film have been removed. A few brief shots betray a jarring softness, but on the whole, this is another solid effort from Warner Home Video.
Blu-ray Audio Quality – Warner Home Video pulls out all the audio stops, supplying 'Gigi' with both 5.1 Dolby TrueHD and 5.1 Dolby Digital 5.1 tracks. Of the two, the TrueHD option is the clear winner, offering clean, clear, well-balanced, and substantive sound. Vocals are nicely prioritized, so all the lyrical patter is crisp and distinct, and dialogue comes through without any impediments. Subtle accents, such as the horse hooves and the crunching of the delicate birds Gigi must consume for lunch at Aunt Alicia's, add punch to the track, and a slight fidelity increase lends the musical numbers welcome oomph. The orchestrations enjoy terrific tonal depth and fine stereo separation, but unfortunately don't bleed into the rear channels. Despite calling it multi-channel, this is still a front-centered aural affair. Once again, Warner Home Video technicians have scrubbed away any age-related defects, such as pops, crackles, and hiss. This isn't a flashy track, but it delivers, and those who appreciate the genius of Alan Jay Lerner and Frederick Loewe will enjoy hearing this high-definition mix.
Blu-ray Special Features and Extras:
Audio Commentary: Commentary by Historian and Archivist Jeanine Basinger with Leslie Caron: Film historian/archivist Jeanine Basinger, with a slight assist from actress Leslie Caron, provides a serviceable commentary that hits all the appropriate points, but lacks the sparkle of some of her previous efforts. Jeanine Basinger obviously possesses great affection for 'GIGI,' but tends to repeat herself and spends too much time describing the action on screen. On the plus side, she divulges some interesting production details, examines the censorship hurdles the film had to scale, and touches upon the background of principal cast and crew members, but insight is rather slim and anyone who's at all familiar with the film won't find much enlightening information here. I was really looking forward to some extensive remarks from the lively Leslie Caron, but her very brief, separately recorded comments, which sound like they were lifted from the interview she gave for the documentary described below, and are only interjected a mere five times throughout this almost two-hour discussion.
Special Feature: NEW Documentary: Thank Heaven! The Making of ‘GIGI’  [1080p] [36:00] 'GIGI' has been called the "crowning achievement of the Arthur Freed Unit at M-G-M," and this slick, absorbing documentary chronicles its history, production, and enthusiastic reception. Employing a wealth of varied interviews, rare still photos, and film clips, the piece examines Colette's original novel and the 1949 French film it inspired, the censorship issues the musical faced, the challenges of location shooting in Paris, the contributions of designer Cecil Beaton, and the film's splashy, unorthodox Broadway premiere. Leslie Caron shares a host of colourful recollections, calling Maurice Chevalier "morose" and Louis Jourdan "finicky," and we also get to hear snippets of her wisely abandoned original vocal tracks. Archival reminiscences from Minnelli, who explains his musical philosophy, are also a highlight.
Special Feature: Original French version of 'Gigi'  [83:00] Starring Daniele Delorme and Directed by Jacqueline Audry. This interesting, non-musical curio parallels the 1958 version fairly closely, but keeps Gigi very much an awkward teen until the final minutes. Jacqueline Audry directs with a light touch, but never trivializes the material, and though a slim budget precludes any ornate sets, she still evokes the atmosphere of turn-of-the-century Paris. In her film debut, Daniele Delorme makes an engaging, if plainer, Gigi, and Franck Villard nicely expresses the chronic ennui afflicting Gaston. But it's Gaby Morlay and Yvonne de Bray who grab most of the attention as Aunt Alicia and Gigi's grandmother, respectively. Warner Bros. alerts viewers to the film's unfortunate state of disrepair, especially its nicks, scratches, missing frames, and rough audio abound, but we're lucky the film exists at all, and it's interesting to compare it to Vincente Minnelli's much more lavish interpretation. The biggest visual issue is the white-printed subtitles, which require intense concentration to closely follow the dialogue. They often bleed into the image, making conversations unintelligible and keeping us so focused on deciphering their meaning, it becomes difficult to absorb the entire picture. French with English subtitles.
Special Feature: Vintage Short: The Million Dollar Nickel  [480i] [4:3] [10:00] A clever bit of democratic propaganda, and this 1952 title of this short refers to the 5-cent stamp required to send a letter overseas from the USA. In the war against Communism, these letters are worth a million dollars, because they counter Soviet dis-information against the United States and emphasises the power of the written word, and how letters extolling the virtues of American freedom and sent to overseas relatives living in Communist countries for a mere nickel in postage and can help stem the Communist threat in Eastern Europe. Immigrants are urged to send letters to their families and friends back in their native countries, describing their experiences in the USA. If they tell the truth in these letters, people will know that the anti-USA propaganda is untrue. A quartet of M-G-M's foreign Hollywood stars, especially Pier Angeli, Ricardo Montalban, Zsa Zsa Gabor, and Leslie Caron, speaking in their native languages, urge their fellow countrymen to get involved in this effort and use their native tongues to press the point.
Special Feature: Vintage Classic CinemaScope M-G-M Cartoon: The Vanishing Duck  [Technicolor] [2.40:1] [7:04] This Classic M-G-M Tom and Jerry cartoon where George brings home a singing duckling for Joan, and follows the exploits of a baby duck, but when George and Joan leave to go to a show, Tom tries to eat him. As the chase ensues, the duckling and Jerry tries to outfox a hungry Tom by using vanishing cream to scare Tom, but he soon finds some himself and gets revenge. It was the penultimate Tom and Jerry cartoon that was directed and produced by William Hanna and Joseph Barbera with music by Scott Bradley. It also marked the final appearance of Nibbles (aka Tuffy), who first appeared in ‘The Milky Waif.’
Theatrical Trailer  [480i] [4:3] [3:00] Unfortunately, Warner Home Video has not seen fit to restore the 'GIGI' trailer, so it's presented in standard definition in window box format.
Finally, 'GIGI' is one of M-G-M's most beloved musicals and this charming, sophisticated tale of Parisian life and manners in the early 1900s of Paris looks and sounds better than ever, thanks to a spanking new transfer culled from restored picture and audio elements, and a nice array of supplements. One of the most pictorially ravishing and most melodically invigorating musicals ever made, ‘GIGI’ gets its definitive home video release in this splendid Blu-ray package. Excellent picture and sound quality and some worthwhile bonus features make this a release that earns my overwhelming endorsement. Fans waiting to upgrade need not hesitate, and those who haven't yet discovered the allure of 'GIGI' should definitely check out this stellar classic release from Warner Home Video and that is why I had no hesitation in getting this wonderful and beautiful Classic Hollywood Musical and has now gone pride of place in my Blu-ray Collection. Highly Recommended!
Andrew C. Miller – Your Ultimate No.1 Film Fan
Le Cinema Paradiso
WARE, United Kingdom