I’m glad I got this for cheap as I will need to upgrade to a much better print, especially if I do the Pink Floyd sync with this. That’s all I thought about when I watched it. I don’t know what I expected but what I got was not at all pleasing to the eye.
A young Parisian girl is trained to be ready to integrate with high society.
The fact that the tape and package was in pristine condition should have tipped me off to what was inside. I bought the 1986 print (the one with the “Musicals Great Musicals” packaging) for less than fifty cents. The tape was rewound and looked like it was maybe played once. After the tape rolled through the usual logos and stuff, a giant red flag appeared in the form of an oversized MGM lion, the ribbon cut off on both sides. I should have stopped the tape right there as what followed was the movie owner’s nightmare from the days of VHS: pan and scan.
I know what you’re thinking: why would you buy a VHS copy, especially a shoddy one at that, when you can get the DVD? Well, my entire film collection is mostly secondhand. I rarely buy a DVD when it’s brand-new unless I’ve seen the film in the theater and know that it needs to be in my collection. Besides, I have not been able to find a DVD copy of this film anywhere so when I saw it in the thrift store, I figured if it took this long to find a print then I should take what is there. Buyer’s remorse does happen and it hit with this film.
My first bad experience with pan and scan was with the Collector’s Edition of Close Encounters of the Third Kind. The entire film was fullscreen, obnoxious pan and scan that made the film practically unwatchable. THEN, there was a featurette that showed clips from the movie in widescreen as it should have been. My unfortunate viewing of Gigi brought those memories back and I winced each time it happened. In my head, I imagined some kind of low rumble when the camera would pan and scan. It got to the point where I swear I heard it outside my head.
So, what about the actual content of the film? There were some interesting style choices like how for almost every single musical number, the main character is seated. Talk about dynamic. The first number, “Thank Heaven for Little Girls”, becomes very creepy when you realize a grown man is in a park surrounded by young girls and singing this. The musical highlight is Gigi singing “The Parisians” in the first act.
While the costumes and set design were well made (as far as I can tell from a VHS copy on a flatscreen, definitely a best use of resources) the story is OK at best. It comes off as a cousin of My Fair Lady and after ten minutes it’s a matter of riding the movie out like a leisurely boat ride at an amusement park. True, the moments where Gigi is training how to be in society are amusing at times, those scenes do not last long.
Also, what is up with that text on the poster? It looks like someone smeared lipstick. My brother, upon seeing the cover, thought it looked like a horror movie. Imagine his surprise when I said it was a G-rated musical.
It’s movies like these who won the Best Picture that I wonder if any of the other nominees were any better or if the year wasn’t that spectacular.
The way a movie is shown, especially for a first viewing, makes a lasting impression. I will need to find a better print. I’ll probably donate the tape to a rummage sale or something or keep it for the Pink Floyd sync (the answer lies on the cover of Ummagumma).
1001 MYMSBYD selection
400 Noms for AFI Top 100 for both years
Winner of Best Picture, Best Director, Best Adapted Screenplay, Best Art Direction, Best Cinematography, Best Costume Design, Best Film Editing, Best Original Score, Best Original Song