My current Top 5

My current Top 5


Number 51: Gigi (Best Picture Ranking)

There are two movies among the Best-Picture-winners which I found positively strange and awkward the first time I watched them. Gigi is one of those (the other one hasn’t been mentioned yet). As you can see, my opinion has obviously changed by now even though Gigi is still one of the most unusual movies in this category.

The Academy was certainly in the perfect mood for Gigi in 1958 and turned it into the biggest winner ever, awarding it 9 Oscars, breaking the record of Gone with the Wind, From Here to Eternity and On the Waterfront. Certainly an impressive achievement (even if it was broken only one year later when Ben-Hur took home 11 trophies) but it’s not hard to see why Gigi swept the technical awards. The whole movie is just gorgeous to look at, from the opulent art direction to the splendid costumes and the beautiful cinematography. Of course, some wins may have been slightly exaggerated – there is nothing too remarkable about Gigi’s editing, especially because it sometimes makes the annoying mistake of showing a certain action (like a person opening a door) only to show the exact same thing after a cut from another angle. The score of Gigi may not feature any true, well-known classics like other musicals but most of the songs are still delightful – ‘It’s a bore’, ‘The night they invented Champagne’, ‘Say a Prayer for me tonight’, ‘I don’t understand the Parisians’, ‘She is not thinking of me’, ‘I remember it well’ or the title song ‘Gigi’ are both endearing and clever. Then there is the infamous ‘Thank heaven for little girls’ which is maybe the biggest flaw in Gigi – it’s hard to say if people in 1958 really appreciated the sight of an old man singing about little girls while smilingly watching a maybe five-year old girl next to him but by now it’s only scary. This also leads to the fact that the character of Lachaille and the performance by Maurice Chevalier should have been left on the cutting room floor – in 1958, he may have been the most praised cast member but his aging womanizer has not aged well, in more ways than one.

Apart from Chevalier, the cast of Gigi is actually pretty terrific. None of them was nominated for an Oscar which does make sense since none of them truly stands out but the chemistry is just right and all actors know how to balance the silliness of the plot with a more dramatic approach to their characters. Leslie Caron in the title role is much more charming and appealing than in An American in Paris and makes Gigi a true dreamer, a little crazy, a little naïve, scared and insecure but joyful and happy, too. Louis Jordan is very loveable as Gaston who thinks that he must lead a life of pleasure and love affairs but soon finds out that he wants nothing more but a loving relationship. Hermione Gingold is also a joy to watch as the exhausted, overprotective but also misguided grandmother while Isabel Jeans often steals the show as Gigi’s aunt who collected kings like other people stamps.

The most unusual thing about Gigi is easily its plot. The story of a young girl that is brought up to become a mistress certainly sounds rather tasteless but at the same time it’s a clever story of young people rebelling against the plans of the elders. Gaston does not want to lead the life of Lachaille while Gigi lacks all the ‘talents’ to become the mistress of a rich man. Obviously, there are a lot of elements in the story that seem to come right out of My Fair Lady – considering that the people behind these two musicals are the same and My Fair Lady was a huge hit on Broadway while Gigi was filmed, this is not surprising. The fact that, in the end, Gigi and Gaston ruin the plans of everyone around them by falling in love makes the whole story much more clever and three-dimensional than it is usually given credit for. In some ways, Gigi is constantly presenting rather annoying or disturbing themes but then turns around and shows a different or modified view and so opens them up to new interpretation.

Overall, Gigi is certainly not for everyone and the lightness, the strangeness of the plot and the characters make it easy to understand why there is a large amount of dislike in regard to this winner but there is a lot to enjoy in Gigi and even more to find out.


dinasztie said...

I really loved this movie when I saw it... almost five years ago. I have no idea about how I would feel now.

Louis Morgan said...

Again I would not have it in this position, but I did think it was okay the last time I saw it.

Anonymous said...

Well, based on your review it should be in the top 30, you certainly loved this film. I thought it was way better than I expected based on what everyone says about it.

Fritz said...

I think the reason why my review is so positive is that Gigi is usually very hated and I don't share this sentiment. So I felt the need to defend my opinion and highlight the positive aspects of the movie which may have made it look as if I love this people more than I actually do.