I know it’s practically blasphemy to say that Vincent Minnelli’s Gigi (1958) isn’t a great film – after all, it’s won 9 Oscars, the American Film Institute has included it in its compilation of “best of”; the U.S. National Film Registry of the Library of Congress considers the film culturally significant, and it’s a popular film for many. Unfortunately, after a viewing, I found the movie’s legacy to be stronger than its content.
Based on a short story by French writer, Collette, Gigi tells the story of the title character (Leslie Caron), who is being raised by her grandmother (Hermoine Gingold) to be a courtesan. Gaston, an affable young man, loves to have romantic adventures, but enjoys spending time with Gigi and her grandmother, hanging out in their overstuffed Parisian apartment, playing cards and spoiling her with gifts of sweets. Gigi’s education is successful and she emerges as an Audrey Hepburn-esque gamin, and Gaston falls in love (but won’t marry her). Also on hand, acting as a one-man Greek chorus is Gaston’s uncle, Honore Lachaille (Maurice Chevalier), who lives a life of a tomcat, as well.
I don’t remember the movie being so slow and long-moving. It could be the second-rate music from Fredereick Lowe, which is badly sung by the cast (with the possible exception of Chevalier, depending on your taste in singing). Also the set design is meant to be authentic and gorgeous – instead it looks fussy and overdone. Throughout the film, I was wondering when will the actors bump into a chair or a table, or an extra.
Is there anything to recommend of this movie? Well, Gingold is pretty funny, and Caron looks lovely. Depending on your tolerance for him, Chevalier could also be seen as a plus. Gigi isn’t the worst movie of all time, but I find the reverence it receives highly questionable.