After watching Gigi, I’m now more irritated than ever before that Saving Private Ryan didn’t win Best Picture.
The movie—which did take home the Best Picture Oscar for 1958—begins with a borderline-elderly, thick-accented Parisian breaking the fourth wall to explain that it’s the year 1900 and take the viewer through a tutorial on the courtship habits of turn-of-the-century Paris. After spying a very young girl running through the park, he breaks into an extra-creepy rendition of “Thank Heaven for Little Girls.”
This is Maurice Chevalier’s Honore Lachaille, and his registry-worthy performance is the jumping-off point of the story of Gigi, played by Leslie Caron. You may remember her from An American in Paris, an earlier film in this collection. What follows are various half-sung songs and scenes of upper-class French doing upper-class French things.
My favorite moment was perhaps Gigi’s aunt complaining about Gigi learning English in school, saying that English-speakers refuse to learn French. Like all her lines, she delivers this lament with an English accent.
There’s no reason to belabor this review. Gigi won Best Picture in an era where set design, costumes, and merely being a period piece in Paris carried a lot of weight with voters. That honor seems downright perplexing today.
The basic story is obviously the romance between Gigi and Gaston Lachaille, played by Louis Jourdan, best-remembered as Kamal Khan in Octopussy. Or maybe that’s just me.
Either way, I’m baffled by the critical acclaim this movie received, especially after watching An American in Paris and the vastly superior Singin’ in the Rain. Most of the performers in the film are passable—at best—as singers. Perhaps not coincidentally, many of the musical numbers include significant chunks of lyrics that are more spoken than sung.
The story itself is also odd. To wit, there is much congratulation thrown Gaston’s way when the discovery of his fiancee’s infidelity causes her to attempt suicide. The plot also seems to borrow heavily from My Fair Lady, minus the charm. That’s possibly not entirely a coincidence, as the same duo, the renowned Lerner and Loewe, wrote the songs for both films.
Cutting to the chase, this movie stinks. And I can’t just chalk this up to my anti-musical bias—because it’s barely a musical, given the fact that the actors speak their way through most of the lyrics. It’s a film where the story is alternately creepy and boring, and the ultimate outcome of the plot is never in doubt.
Is it a musical? I don’t know—are they singing? Is it a comedy? I don’t know—I’m not laughing.
As outstanding and genuinely funny as Singin’ in the Rain was, this is the opposite.
If you’re looking for a positive, I will say that the special features on the blu-ray are very comprehensive and impressive. In fact, one of the special features is an entire film—the 1949 French version of Gigi, complete with subtitles.
That’s about all I can muster on the plus side.
This is the worst film I’ve reviewed from this collection.
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