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Over the decades since the Academy Awards were instituted, less than ten films of the musical genre have captured the Oscar for Best Picture… GIGI ($29) is one of those very special musicals that have captured the coveted award. In addition to taking the Oscar for Best Picture, GIGI also won an additional seven Academy Awards including Best Screenplay, Best Art Direction, Best Cinematography, Best Costume Design and Best Director Vincente Minnelli, who guided another musical, AN AMERICAN IN PARIS, to its win for Best Picture. Considering that GIGI was released in 1958, the subject matter of a courtesan-in-training was obviously risqué, so its obvious that screenwriter Alan Jay Lerner had to apply a great deal of delicacy, when adapting Colette's novella to a medium still governed by censorship. Of course, Lerner’s Herculean feat did result in an Academy Award.

Set in France, at the turn of the twentieth century, GIGI tells the story of love in polite French society. Now in this polite society, most follow establish convention of finding love and marriage to be inseparable. However, marriage is not for everyone… there are the men who will not marry and the women who do not marry. Still, this is France and love does prevail in all forms. Leslie Caron stars in GIGI as the title character, a young girl who follows in her family tradition and is to be groomed as a courtesan, learning etiquette and charm, in addition to other skills required to attract the attention of wealthy suitors. Gigi, however, is a poor student and fails to understand the necessity for her lessons. Things change for Gigi when she begins to see wealthy family friend (and playboy) Gaston Lachaille (Louis Jourdan) in a whole new light… at which point Gigi comes to understand what she is being groomed for. Gigi’s transformation into beautiful swan is certainly not wasted on Gaston, who finally sees her as more than just a substitute for a little sister. The cast of GIGI also features Maurice Chevalier, Hermione Gingold, Eva Gabor, Jacques Bergerac, Isabel Jeans and John Abbott.

Warner Home Video has made GIGI available on Blu-ray Disc in a 2.35:1 aspect ratio presentation that has been encoded onto the disc with the VC-1 codec. The 1080p presentation is positively sublime; beautifully rendering Joseph Ruttenberg’s Oscar winning cinematography. GIGI has never looked better at home than it does here. Image sharpness and fine detail aren’t at the level of newer films, but are quite excellent for a motion picture that has celebrated its fiftieth anniversary. Shots that contain opticals are a bit softer than the film proper. Colors are wonderfully vibrant, particularly the reds, which leap off the screen. Blacks are inky and whites are crisp. Contrast is quite good; shadow detail is fine for a film of this particular vintage. The film elements from which GIGI has been transferred are in terrific shape. Film grain is ever present, but it maintains the organic quality of the presentation.

GIGI is presented on Blu-ray Disc with a 5.1 channel Dolby TrueHD soundtrack. This is a pretty nice vintage musical soundtrack that has been given a respectable spread throughout the soundstage. Separations are across the front with the fill going to the rear channels. Fidelity is good, but there are limitations to the sound due to the recording technologies available a half a century ago. The higher registers are better represented than the lower, but the sound does not come across as harsh. Dialogue is cleanly rendered and always completely understandable. An English Dolby Digital 5.1 channel track has also been provided, as have French, Spanish, German and Italian monaural tracks. Subtitles are available in English, French, Spanish, Danish, Dutch, Finnish, German, Italian, Norwegian, Portuguese and Swedish.

The interactive menus allow one access to the standard scene selection and set up features, as well as, as well as the supplemental materials. Starting things off is a running Audio Commentary with film historian Jeanine Basinger and additional comments from actress Leslie Caron. Next we have Thank Heaven: The Making Of Gigi, a thirty-six minute retrospection of the film’s production. A classic CinemaScope Tom & Jerry cartoon entitled The Vanishing Duck is also present, as is the theatrical vintage short subject Million Dollar Nickle. The 1949 French Adaptation of GIGI is also present on the disc, and has been mastered from the only known surviving print. A Theatrical Trailer closes out the supplements.

GIGI is a true musical cinema masterpiece that has been beautifully represented on Blu-ray. Highly recommended.



Gigi [Blu-ray] (1958)


DVD & Blu-rayDisc reviews are Copyright © 2009 THE CINEMA LASER and may not be copied or reprinted without the written consent of the publisher.
THE CINEMA LASER is written, edited and published by Derek M. Germano.



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