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Film Review: Gigi
In 1958, Vincente Minnelli released Gigi, based on the 1944 novella of the same name by Sidonie-Gabriella Colette. Starring Leslie Caron, Louis Jourdan, Maurice Chevalier, Hermione Gingold, Isabel Jeans, Eva Gabor, Jacques Bergerac, and John Abbott, the film grossed $13.2 million at the box office. Nominated for the Golden Globe Awards for Best Actress – Motion Picture Musical or Comedy and twice for Best Actor – Motion Picture Musical or Comedy, it won the awards for Best Motion Picture – Musical or Comedy, Best Director – Motion Picture, and Best Supporting Actress – Motion Picture as well as the Academy Awards for Best Picture, Best Director, Best Adapted Screenplay, Best Art Direction, Best Cinematography, Best Costume Design, Best Film Editing, Best Original Score and Best Original Song. It broke the record set by Gone with the Wind for Academy Award nominations.
In the 1890s France, Gaston is a rich Parisian who wants to break from his family’s traditions and finds refuge in Gigi, a young girl raised to be a rich man’s courtesan. And while the two initially see each other as nothing more than siblings, over time, he sees that she’s grown up and must decide whether to take her as a mistress.
A pretty good film, Gigi is a fun romantic escapist escapade into the love lives of high class citizens in France’s la Belle Epoque. What really makes it is the relationship between Gaston and the eponymous Gigi, the former being an idle rich boy who has grown so bored with the rich lifestyle that he even has a musical number on it and the latter coming from a long line of high class call girls. The two of them have known each other their entire lives and the initial stages of their relationship is understandably awkward. But after they get over that, due to knowing each other so well and spending so much time with each other, they only need the one date they do have to realize that spending the rest of their lives together is the right thing. And the effectiveness of the characters, as well as their relationship together, wouldn’t have been as great had Caron and Jourdan not had such good chemistry together. The two of them really bring the feeling that they have known each other their whole lives and practically know everything about each other.
Gigi’s aforementioned background is also interesting due to her having been descended from that line of courtesans, but her mother chose to break that streak. And Gigi’s grandmother and aunt hate it. However, it could be they’re not looking down on the fact that she gave up the family tradition of being fancy prostitutes, but the fact that she decided to become an operatic singer, making very little money doing so. Gigi’s grandmother even comments that her mother is “slaving away” and taking “ridiculous little roles.” It makes sense that they would look down on getting a job, albeit a respectable one, that made smaller amounts of money, seeing as courtesans were above the average prostitute and did their work with those in the higher classes, choosing their own clients and making their own money. At the same time, it could also be the fact that she’s not very good as Gigi’s mother’s chosen occupation provides a pretty amusing running gag. She never appears on-screen, she’s heard about three times during the course of the movie practicing her scales. But every time she does, someone is seen closing a door to get rid of the noise. But, Gigi’s mother engrossing herself in the operatic occupation also presents a form of parental abandonment as she’s so absorbed by her singing that Gigi has to be raised by her grandmother. Her father’s never mentioned either, but that’s to be expected due to her mother previously having lived a courtesan’s life.
There’s a lot of other humor in the film apart from that running gag, too. One of the most notable humorous moments takes place in the song “I Remember It Well,” where Honore is trying to convince Mamita that she’s his greatest love by telling her about their last evening together. The humor comes in that he’s getting everything wrong and she has to correct him.
Speaking of Honore, he’s a good narrative character, often speaking to the audience. His opening song “Thank Heaven for Little Girls,” is also a great number.
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