This enchanting 1958 musical remake of the 1948 French Film of the same name has finally been released as it should onto DVD and it is a marvel to see.In fact this two disc set also INCLUDES the aforementioned 1948 b&w full screen film which compares quite favourably to its' musical sister.
Let's start with the 1948 82 1/2 minute version.
Based on a short story(novella)written by French writer Collette during WW2,this film tells the tale of one Gilberte or Gigi who is being raised by her Grandmother Mamita(Yvonne De Bray)with much input from her Aunt Alicia(Gaby Morlay).Her own mother is a "working" stage performer who hasn't the time or seeming inclination to raise Gigi herself(you only hear the mother periodcially off camera singing).The film opens at the Eiffel Tower as we see an old Lothario by the name of Honore'(Jean Tissier)escorting a girl probably a good third his age to the restaurant there.We also meet his nephew Gaston(Frank Villaird) who is quite well to do(he works in the sugar business) and a chip off his old uncle in the romance department.Gaston is young and bored with his life but often gets some pleasant diversion from visiting Mamita and Gigi for some good food and card playing with Gigi(she usually wins).Gigi is a typical 16 year old who carries all the habits and the lack of maturity of a girl that age but is brought up with the sage advice of her grandmother combined with regular visits to her Aunt Alicia,who imparts proper manners and the deportment society expects.
Gaston meanwhile carries on his playboy lifestyle for all of societal Paris to see;something expected of everyone of his stature.You see this Paris at the turn of the century is full of romantic intrigues,trysts and adultery.As Aunt Alicia says:"Instead of sometimes marrying too soon,we marry AT last".Alicia,like her sister Mamita,never married but courted constantly and has a litany of stories to tell.In her mind it is a game to be played with finesse and strategy first and love second;mind over the heart.
Gastons' current lady love cheats on him with a skating instructor who he follows to a rendezvous by the sea and outs both of them.He pays off the skating instructor to leave for good and he leaves his girlfriend,for good too.Societal norms and the "game" dictates no other course of action.Gaston returns to see Mamita and Gigi who appears wearing a new dress,much more chic than she's ever worn before.Gaston not used to it admonishes her for it and Gigi(never shy)retorts(with a grin)that she didn't know he was such an authority on womans clothing.He storms out but comes back but is rebuffed by Mamita when he asks to take Gigi out.Gigi is sent to her room while Mamita explains that the reputation of girl like Gigi would be compromised if seen publicly with a man like Gaston.He storms out again but returns later to tell Mamita that he would like for Gigi to become his "kept" woman,with anything she wanted.Mamita and later the Aunt agree but Gigi is not as backward as they believe she is and she doesn't want to become someone on the "side" no matter what the lifestyle.When he tells her he loves her it cuts deeper than before.They part but it is Gigi this time who finally relents as she also loves him.He takes her to a posh restaurant(one he has obviously come to before) and while there Gigi notices the names of Gaston and a past girlfriend written together on a mirror near them(like carvings on a tree).When Gigi asks to write THEIR names on it he finally realizes he doesn't want her as an "aside" either.Pulling her arm in silence he rushes a perplexed Gigi back home.When Mamita answers he asks for Gigi's hand in marriage.Fade out.
The 1958 musical version surprisingly differs little in substance from the 1948 version as entire scenes and dialogue are exactly the same.What differs the most from the two is the slightly toned down backdrop to the story involving a good portion of Parisian society involved in constant societal scandal and sexual indiscretions.One scene that didn't get included from the /48 film was when Aunt Alicia was commenting on Gigi's body in reference to her appeal to the opposite sex,she reaches out and feels Gigi's breasts.Another scene involves a moment when Gigi and Gaston are alone sitting beside each other.You see Gaston put his hand over to her(out of camera sight)and just as you think it's to clasp her hand,the camera shows us it is really on and rubbing her leg.She gently lifts it off as the camera moves in.
The 1958 version also expands some scenes or simply creates newer scenes to go to its'115 minute mark and it is wonderful,all the way.With this delightful and intriguing backdrop to go by,Alan Lerner(music)and Fred Lowe(screenplay and lyrics)created some of the most memorable music in any screen musical,such as "Thank Heaven For Little Girls","I'm Glad I'm Not Young Anymore","I Remember it Well" and the title track;all directed by conductor heavyweight Andre Previn.While musical interludes in some musicals can be intrusive,each one here falls seemlessly into the place it should.Maurice Chevalier wonderfully plays the aging Lothario Honore',his nephew Gaston by Louis Jordan,Mamita is Hermione Gingold,Alicia is Isabel Jeans and Leslie Caron plays Gigi.Beautifully acted this movie deserved the eight OSCARS it got including best picture,directing(Minelli) and best music.Chevalier got an honourary award that night also to top things off.
Technically the 1948 version is a little rough.It shows it's age and there are alot of visual defects throughout.This is a North American release print so the film had opening and closing credits spliced in in English,was spoken in French with English subtitles throughout.The subtitles are in white and whenever they appear over a white background(which is frequently),they wash right out and are sometimes gone before you know it.Warners should have tinted these yellow to correct that fatal problem.The 1958 version has NO such problems or any to speak of.It is in it's original theatrical apsect ratio and the print here is remastered beautifully.It is now over 50 years old but looks like it was shot yesterday,enchancing ones enjoyment tremendously.
Included in this two disc set is an approximately 45 minute documentary on its' making,a two reeler from 1952 called "The Million Dollar Nickel"("nickel" refers to postage stamps),the trailer,a Tom and Jerry cartoon short(widescreen) called"The Vanishing Duck" and an optional movie commentary with Jeanine Basinger and star Leslie Caron.
This is THE Gigi to get,loaded with extras including the surprise addition of the original version along with the newly remastered 1958 version as delightful and better looking than you are ever likely to see.Get yours today!