Wednesday, 25 March 2009


1958 - Dir.: Vincente Minelli
Shown at The FeckenOdeon on 27th December, 2005

This has to be one of the grandest of all the grand musicals made by MGM - and, sadly, it proved to be the last. After “Gigi” the accountants moved in and showmanship moved out. The company bounced from flop to fiasco and is now a shadow of its former self. But what a way to end an era! Based on the novel by Colette, “Gigi” tells the story of a young girl (Leslie Caron) who is reared by her grandmother and great aunt to follow family tradition by becoming a courtesan. The family is scandalised, however, when the handsome and eligible Gaston Lachaille (Louis Jordan) proposes marriage to her.
Despite the delightful performances of Caron and Jordan, the film is almost stolen by Hermione Gingold and Maurice Chevalier, who perform the classic and touching "I remember it well" - just one musical highlight in a film containing many.
Gigi is a stylish triumph from start to finish, magnificently photographed in Metrocolor and CinemaScope by Joseph Ruttenberg to highlight the sumptuous costumes and sets (by Cecil Beaton). But the real praise deserves to go to the team of director Vincente Minelli and producer Arthur Freed. Some of the film was photographed in Paris, in locations (like Maxim's) redressed by Beaton, their Belle Époque interiors meticulously restored. MGM's tight budget demanded all of the Parisian locations be filmed in a month. Despite the rush the result earned “Gigi” no less than nine Oscars including “Best Picture”. “Gigi” may be a product of its time - it’s hard to think of a producer who would tackle this story in the same way today - but as a great big opulent example of showbiz glamour it’s hard to beat.

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