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HTF BLU-RAY REVIEW: Gigi



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#1 of 17 OFFLINE   Matt Hough

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Posted April 07 2009 - 09:23 AM

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Gigi (Blu-ray)
Directed by Vincente Minnelli

Studio: Warner Bros.
Year: 1958
Aspect Ratio: 2.40:11080pVC-1 codec
Running Time: 115 minutes
Rating: G
Audio: Dolby TrueHD 5.1 English; Dolby Digital 5.1 English; 1.0 French, Spanish, others
Subtitles: English, French, Spanish, German, many others
MSRP: $ 28.99

Release Date: March 31, 2009
Review Date: April 7, 2009


The Film

5/5

After their triumphant 1956 Broadway musical My Fair Lady won six Tony Awards and was well on its way to becoming the biggest musical hit of the century up to that time, composer Frederick Loewe and librettist Alan Jay Lerner embarked on their first musical together written for the screen. For their subject, they chose the small Colette story Gigi whose play version written by Anita Loos had played successfully already on Broadway and London. Touching it with the same kind of delirious magic that had made My Fair Lady such a rapturous experience, the movie Gigi was enthusiastically received, became the biggest musical smash in the history of MGM, and won nine Academy Awards, not a bad one-two punch for the team of Lerner and Loewe at all!

Tomboyish teenager Gigi (Leslie Caron) has reached the age where she must follow in her female ancestors’ footsteps, and so she begins her training as a courtesan under the tutelage of her Aunt Alicia (Isabel Jeans) though her grandmother Alvarez (Hermione Gingold) and family friend Gaston Lachaille (Louis Jordan) both feel Gigi’s perhaps still too immature to begin the lessons in earnest. Gaston, despite numerous amorous conquests, has much more fun with Gigi and her grandmother and would rather spend time with them rather than chasing Paris‘ most delectable beauties or having them chase him. His uncle Honoré (Maurice Chevalier), meanwhile, implores Gaston to live life to the fullest and to enjoy all of the beautiful girls that come into one’s life.

Vincente Minnelli won the first Oscar ever given to the director of a musical for his breathtaking work in this picture. Known for his intense interest in art (he served many years before coming to Hollywood as a production designer on Broadway), he infuses every frame of Gigi with a painterly look, composing shots as if his principal actors were models being placed on an Impressionist’s canvas. This gives Gigi something of a stylized look and feel (most notably attained during the Maxim sequences), unique among classic musicals, and with the addition of the marvelous songs of Lerner and Loewe, it’s no wonder the movie became so celebrated.

The score is a tremendous achievement, filled with charming, memorable melodies that rival in quality the songs for any Broadway musical (indeed, the musical version of Gigi was eventually mounted for the stage, but no production could possibly match the film’s lustrous beauty). Three of the numbers became instant standards: “Thank Heaven for Little Girls,” Honoré’s paean to the bounties of ladies both young and otherwise; “I Remember It Well,” the amusingly droll reminiscence between Mme. Alvarez and her lover from olden days Honoré; and the title song, which allows Gaston to discover in song what his unrealized feelings for Gigi really are. The latter, an interior monologue that bursts into a full flowering rhapsody, won the 1958 Oscar for Best Song.

The performances of the all-star cast are now legendary. Leslie Caron was not the first choice for the title role. Audrey Hepburn had played the part on Broadway in the nonmusical play but was unavailable. Caron had played it in the London production, however, and fit the role like a glove (though her singing voice had to be dubbed by Betty Wand. Recordings of Caron’s attempts at the score’s songs as heard on the Rhino soundtrack album show dubbing her was indeed a wise move.) Louis Jourdan’s combination of bored playboy and bon vivant awakened to life’s joys through his love for Gigi is one of his greatest performances, his lack of vocal training not proving a problem at all since he talk/sings his songs in the same manner employed by Rex Harrison in My Fair Lady. The film was a sensational comeback for Maurice Chevalier who hadn’t made a musical film in America since 1934 and was until that time considered something of a bad risk since his reputation had been tarnished by performing for the Vichy government during the Second World War. He was awarded a special Oscar for his work in the movie which brought him back to American films in a big way. Hermione Gingold won the only acting award in competition of any of the leading players, the Golden Globe for Best Supporting Actress for her delightfully shrewd grandmother constantly worried that Gigi’s inexperienced exuberance will bring scandal to the family name. No one who has seen the tender sequence on the balcony between her and Chevalier as they relive past experiences will ever forget it.

Gigi’s exquisite look is as much due to the talents of production designer Cecil Beaton as it is to Vincente Minnelli. Having won a Tony for the costumes for My Fair Lady, he was certainly the right person to bring onto the film to design its overall look in its turn of the century sets and costumes. He won the Oscar for his dazzling costumes for the film, helping it exude a classiness and lush tone that basically defies description but must be seen to be believed. Though not the greatest musical in the MGM canon, Gigi is certainly one of the classiest, a Cinderella story told with all the Gallic charm and delightful melody that the artisans at MGM could summon.


Video Quality

4/5

The film’s 2.40:1 theatrical aspect ratio is delivered in 1080p using the VC-1 codec. Though Metrocolor is notoriously difficult to color time consistently well, admirable attempts to tame it have brought forth an often dazzling picture with only occasionally blooming reds (Gigi’s sitting room is all in various shades of red) and ruddy flesh tones once in a while. Sharpness is most of the time exemplary, and dimensionality is often quite striking as the real Paris locations come alive through the Oscar-winning cinematography. (The infrequent use of rear projection, however, is glaringly obvious in this encode.) The image is clean, too, a minor miracle compared to the original DVD release of the film which was cluttered with dirt and debris. The movie has been divided into 33 chapters.

Audio Quality

4/5

The Dolby TrueHD 5.1 audio track is a lovely aural experience. The orchestrations by Conrad Salinger are lush and have an open feel and a lightness and verve that strikes all the right notes in the listener. Though the rear surrounds are not used optimally, the sound still impresses with the music never drowning out the singers whose voices stay rooted in the center channel.


Special Features

3.5/5

Film historian Jeanine Basinger contributes a rather average audio commentary for the movie. Though usually scene specific, her thoughts sometimes seem a bit repetitive and scattered though her enthusiasm for the movie is unquestionable. Occasionally prerecorded audio reminiscences by star Leslie Caron are added to extend Basinger’s comments.

“Thank Heaven! The Making of Gigi is an entertaining 35 ¾-minute retrospective on the film’s troubled production and subsequent triumph. Along with recent interviews with Leslie Caron, the documentary features vintage interviews with Vincente Minnelli and others connected with the movie. Film historians Dr. Drew Casper and Hugh Fordin also speak eloquently on the film’s greatness. It’s in 1080p.

The original 1949 French version of Gigi is presented in 480i. This 82 ½-minute nonmusical version is a treat to watch with many of the familiar scenes from the color musical first being seen in black and white in the original language. The film is in poor condition (an enclosed notice warns that the transfer was derived from the only known surviving print of the movie) and subtitles are often lost against white blooming backdrops of shirts, blouses, tablecloths, and curtains.

“The Million Dollar Nickel” is a 1952 MGM short imploring American citizens to send air mail letters (which then cost a five cent air mail stamp) to relatives and friends in Europe and Asia contradicting Communist propaganda at the time about the "harsh" conditions in America. MGM stars Pier Angeli, Ricardo Montalban, Zsa Zsa Gabor, and Leslie Caron speak in their native languages to their countrymen imploring them to write the truth about life in the United States. It’s in 480i and lasts 9 ½ minutes.

“The Vanishing Duck” is a 1958 Cinemascope cartoon (presented in 480p) featuring Tom and Jerry and a new family duck that Tom is interested in pursuing. It runs for 7 minutes.

The film’s theatrical trailer in faded color (which gives a good idea of the amount of restoration needed for the Blu-ray version of the movie to look as good as it does) runs 3 ½ minutes in 480i.


In Conclusion

4.5/5 (not an average)

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.


Matt Hough
Charlotte, NC

#2 of 17 OFFLINE   Mike Frezon

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Posted April 08 2009 - 04:07 AM

Gee, Matt. You sold me.

Gigi (along with An American in Paris) was never among my favorite MGM musicals...although there are many moments/songs that are, naturally, part of the landscape of musical greatness.

Admittedly, I haven't seen Gigi since my youth. It may be a film which I will appreciate much more now and, based upon your glowing description (of both film and BD presentation), I am encouraged to give it another try.

Now I just need to hope I can find a good deal on the disc some time.

There's Jessie the yodeling cowgirl. Bullseye, he's Woody's horse. Pete the old prospector. And, Woody, the man himself.Of course, it's time for Woody's RoundUp. He's the very best! He's the rootinest, tootinest cowboy in the wild, wild west!


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#3 of 17 ONLINE   Ethan Riley

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Posted April 08 2009 - 04:12 AM

I have to wholeheartedly agree about the lack of dirt and debris. This release is night and day compared to the original dvd from years ago. The most striking difference I noticed is when Gigi is about to sing "I Don't Understand the Parisians" and she's still sitting in front of the jewelry box. The dirt on the original dvd was remarkable, thick and distracting. Now it's gone.
 

 


#4 of 17 OFFLINE   Dennis Nicholls

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Posted April 08 2009 - 01:55 PM

Gigi is IMHO the ultimate "adult" musical: not because it's pornographic, but rather because its view on human nature demands a certain adult viewpoint.

I sampled my BRD the other day and will finish up tonight.

Gigi is about true love, untrammeled by the cynical views of outsiders. In some respects it's the most truly romantic musical of them all.
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#5 of 17 OFFLINE   Mike Frezon

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Posted April 08 2009 - 02:22 PM

Quote:
Originally Posted by Dennis Nicholls
Gigi is IMHO the ultimate "adult" musical: not because it's pornographic, but rather because its view on human nature demands a certain adult viewpoint.

I sampled my BRD the other day and will finish up tonight.

Gigi is about true love, untrammeled by the cynical views of outsiders. In some respects it's the most truly romantic musical of them all.

Well now I'm really intrigued to revisit Gigi through my somewhat more mature eyes. Posted Image

There's Jessie the yodeling cowgirl. Bullseye, he's Woody's horse. Pete the old prospector. And, Woody, the man himself.Of course, it's time for Woody's RoundUp. He's the very best! He's the rootinest, tootinest cowboy in the wild, wild west!


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#6 of 17 OFFLINE   Johnny Angell

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Posted April 08 2009 - 04:18 PM

Quote:
Originally Posted by Dennis Nicholls
Gigi is IMHO the ultimate "adult" musical: not because it's pornographic, but rather because its view on human nature demands a certain adult viewpoint...Gigi is about true love, untrammeled by the cynical views of outsiders. In some respects it's the most truly romantic musical of them all.
But isn't the story itself cynical? Gigi is being raised from childhood to be a courtesan. In other words, an upper class prostitute. I have always found that selection of a child to be a prostitute rather troubling.
Johnny
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#7 of 17 OFFLINE   JohnMor

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Posted April 08 2009 - 05:49 PM

Quote:
Originally Posted by Johnny Angell
But isn't the story itself cynical? Gigi is being raised from childhood to be a courtesan. In other words, an upper class prostitute. I have always found that selection of a child to be a prostitute rather troubling.


I don't find the story cynical because Gigi is the romantic and she eventually wins out. Her family and the others are certainly cynical. Had their way prevailed, then I'd say the story is cynical. But true love wins out. By the end even Gaston refuses to let the pattern continue and he does what is "unthinkable" to everybody else.

Mike, I'll be curious to see your reaction to it now. As an adult I see it so differently than I did as a kid, and I LOVE it now. Witty, sophisticated.

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#8 of 17 OFFLINE   Dennis Nicholls

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Posted April 08 2009 - 09:10 PM

"Gaston, congratulations! Your first suicide!" Manuel pops cork on Champagne.

In Gigi the lovers end up rebelling against the cynical conventions of upper-class gay Paree. Consider Gaston's song "I'm bored" or Gigi's song "I don't understand the Parisians".

An ugly black cigar is love? seques into a political scandal of our own time.

One adult issue: who and where is Gigi's father? Is he that "charming gentleman with all those flour mills" that Gigi's grandmother wistfully describes - the "one that got away" from Gigi's mother?

It's amazing that Gigi could be made in Hollywood in the puritanical 1950s.
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#9 of 17 ONLINE   Ethan Riley

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Posted April 09 2009 - 03:44 AM

Quote:
Originally Posted by Johnny Angell
But isn't the story itself cynical? Gigi is being raised from childhood to be a courtesan. In other words, an upper class prostitute. I have always found that selection of a child to be a prostitute rather troubling.

The themes may be cynical; the execution of them is not. It's actually one of the brightest and funniest of the MGM musicals, and one of the most literate. All the lead characters are too silly to hate because of their views. Anyway, the theme of Gigi's upbringing is a reflection of their times, not ours.
 

 


#10 of 17 OFFLINE   Paul Hillenbrand

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Posted April 09 2009 - 07:59 AM

Quote:
Originally Posted by MattH.
Posted Image
Gigi (Blu-ray)


Video Quality
4/5
The film’s 2.40:1 theatrical aspect ratio is delivered in 1080p using the VC-1 codec. Though Metrocolor is notoriously difficult to color time consistently well, admirable attempts to tame it have brought forth an often dazzling picture with only occasionally blooming reds (Gigi’s sitting room is all in various shades of red) and ruddy flesh tones once in a while.

Matt Hough
Charlotte, NC
I would like to discuss the "occasionally blooming reds" reproduced from this Blu-ray disc.

First I would like to say that the video quality of Blu-ray is indeed truly film-like and surprisingly I've never found myself wanting to view the original film instead of the disc when viewing Blu-ray - the last count being 410 HD discs, until this film.
Yes, the disc makes the representation of the film almost perfect considering its age, blemishes and sharpness with little to no visible artifacts. IMHO, the grain is also visibly good and natural.

What really is bothering me about the "blooming reds" (and I'm not even sure it's caused by the blooming) is the look of thousands of live crawling white ants that is noticed on the red table cloth centered in the grandmother's parlor, whenever the sunlight hits it.Posted Image

This is BAD IMHO, and reminds me of the VHS tape artifacts that I would always see when playing a scene with a lot of red. At first I thought that I must have finally found my Sony Ruby projector's capability limits, but when the same artifacts were reproduced on my Sharp 46" LCD, I knew it had to be either frequency reproduction limits for the Blu-ray technology (Played the Blu-ray on a PS3 and also on a Panasonc BD55) or possibly the VC-1 codec.Posted Image Also, the inefficient resolving of the different shades of red on the wallpaper in the parlor is very evident. There is a definite red velvet pattern repeated throughout the wallpaper that just kind of blends in in most areas of the screen unless the light hits it just right.

I do not remember this when theatrically viewing the original film and would like to know if these types of artifacts can be prevented.

Thanks for listening.

Paul
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#11 of 17 OFFLINE   Vern Dias

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Posted April 09 2009 - 02:45 PM

Only by abandoning the BD and other non professional video standards which specify a 4:2:0 encoding process. Google 4:2:0 video for more information.

Unfortunately the color red appears to be affected the most and a saturated red will drop to considerably less than HD resolution. Details virtually disappear on a saturated red surface. The resolution loss is even more apparent on DVD.

Vern

#12 of 17 OFFLINE   Wayne_j

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Posted April 09 2009 - 11:58 PM

And unfortunately Minelli has always been a big fan of red for his films.

#13 of 17 OFFLINE   John Skoda

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Posted April 10 2009 - 04:42 AM

One thing I hadn't appreciated until this disc (it's pointed out in the 'making-of' featurette) is how amazing Leslie Caron's performance is in this film.

Do you know she was in her late 20's when she did this, and even was a mother by that point? How in the world was she supposed to play an adolescent?

She says (in the featurette) that the costumes helped. But the main thing she tried to do is MOVE in the different ways people move at different ages.

She approached it as a dancer, and it makes all the difference. Watch it for this next time you see the film. She's amazing and completely believable.

#14 of 17 OFFLINE   Dennis Nicholls

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Posted April 10 2009 - 06:39 AM

The BRD of Gigi is a big hit here in Boise. Even the local propane company is singing its praise.
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#15 of 17 OFFLINE   Jefferson

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Posted April 12 2009 - 07:14 AM

Yes, there is enormous improvement over any other release, so where lies my dissapointment?
I suppose I must lay blame on Metrocolor.
The ruddy skin tones and the "contrasty-ness" (for lack of a technical term) of it is a letdown to me. The above noted moments of shoddy rear projection in "It's A Bore" probably looked this bad in original release, and yet..... How did the creative team let them pass?

The best I can say is that the good taste of the script, score, performers and designers still surpass whatever is lacking in the original processing....and this Blu-ray is undoubtedly the best we will ever see it look.

#16 of 17 OFFLINE   DeeF

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Posted April 16 2009 - 10:08 AM

Gigi's theme isn't cynical. It's the story of how a girl's natural morality transforms a man. She's willing to live with him as a courtesan, and he's the one that's bothered by that, and chooses to marry her instead.

It's the greatest original film musical ever produced.

#17 of 17 OFFLINE   Mike Frezon

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Posted February 05 2010 - 07:17 AM



Quote:
Originally Posted by Mike Frezon 

Gee, Matt. You sold me.

...

Now I just need to hope I can find a good deal on the disc some time.
And I have.  Currently $14.99 @ amazon.  /img/vbsmilies/htf/biggrin.gif

There's Jessie the yodeling cowgirl. Bullseye, he's Woody's horse. Pete the old prospector. And, Woody, the man himself.Of course, it's time for Woody's RoundUp. He's the very best! He's the rootinest, tootinest cowboy in the wild, wild west!


HTF Rules | HTF Mission Statement | Father of the Bride

Dieting with my Dog & Heart to Heart/Hand in Paw by Peggy Frezon



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