I watched Gigi when I was seventeen years old. It actually came in a case with two other classics “Singing In the Rain” and “My Fair Lady”. I found it surprising that it would be included with such masterpieces and I believed that it would be average at best. However, my admiration of the film has grown over the years and after watching it yesterday (January 23, 2014) my first impression of the film has been thrown away and labeled as a moment of naivete.
The film takes place in Paris during the turn of the 20th century and centers on the high society, or more accurately on the culture that had developed there among the elite. This film shows impressively the intricate relationships between men and their mistresses and the effects of living such a lifestyle. As the film opens with Maurice Chevalier singing “Thank Heaven For Little Girls” I was both charmed and intrigued by the message that lay there. Men needed women, however a woman’s worth depended on the man’s perspective on what was socially acceptable and what they could gain from them. A woman’s image was intricately connected to the role she played in a man’s mind. For me, the film showed what happened to women who were mistresses to the elegant “lovers” of high society. They were expected to be feminine, charming, graceful, knowledgeable on jewelry and quality and subject to their patron. Those in that world (both men and women) lived what they called a truly romantic lifestyle, in the springtime that all lovers aspire for without limitations made by marriage and family. They went to cultured events, threw elegant parties and traveled the world. However, when their springtime ended and they grew tired of each other they moved on. The film masterfully shows not only that such a lifestyle is detrimental but also that true love is found differently and much longer than the short time given in springtime. I think this idea is shown best when Gigi’s grandmother and Gaston’s uncle reflect on their own romance in “I Remember it Well”. Though he claimed to be such a romantic he barely remembered anything about their relationship together. It truly was only a passing fancy.
I found all of the characters in this movie enjoyable to watch and study. None of them were boring, and to me they all contributed something essential in understanding the meaning of the film. I will talk about the two main characters the most because I believe they embody the movie’s ideals the best.
Gigi is the character who, in my mind, represents innocence and genuine self-awareness. I found it fascinating to watch her as she sang “The Parisans”, and mock “the art of love-making” that her aunt and so many around her believed in so thoroughly. I believe that she saw it as fake. She wanted something more genuine in her life. She wanted to laugh, play games, and most importantly be herself. When it came to love she wanted something long-lasting and a relationship that didn’t have to follow all the silly rules her aunt showed her. To her, “The art of love” that so many followed was a mere counterfeit. I found it amazing that though she loved Gaston she could still see what fate awaited her if she were to accept his offer and become his mistress. Despite this, she still decided to accept because she couldn’t bear to be apart from him.
Gaston (Louis Jourdan) was a victim of that counterfeit lifestyle. He was bored and empty and he found all the wonders that his uncle reveled in to be unfulfilling. His uncle, who had followed that lifestyle till old age, fought to persuade his nephew throughout the entire film that he would be happiest following his footsteps. However, The things that Gaston enjoyed the most weren’t all that glamorous at all. He was happiest when he visited Gigi and her grandmother at their small apartment. When he realized that he loved Gigi, making her has mistress was the only way he knew to show his affection. It was what he had been taught and how he had lived most of his life. However, when he saw her in that environment I can imagine the revulsion he felt by bringing her there and having her change into what she hated. When he pulled her away from the restaurant and left her at her apartment, I could see the wheels in his head turning. As he walked ,along the same path he had taken when he realized he loved her, he realized his feelings had not changed but his perspective had. He could not force Gigi to live a lifestyle that would ruin her and bring her unhappiness and yet he could not part from her. When he asked her to marry him I thought the same thing as her grandmother. Thank Heaven that they were able to find each other and realize that true happiness came from long-lasting commitments and not short term fantasies.
I don’t believe that the music in this film is that spectacular. In fact, I think the film would be able to progress just as well without it. Each of the songs follow the same pattern and they lack diversity and individual charm. I don’t mean that the songs aren’t charming or fun to listen to. They are just average. I have to say though I enjoy listening to “Thank Heaven For Little Girls”. Often I find myself humming it when I remember this film or I watch “The Aristocats”.
The film isn’t boring it is just simple. It doesn’t give you anything extraordinary but I don’t believe that it is meant to. The message is simple and so is its visuals. I would have given it a 5 if it had shown me something I wasn’t expecting. However, it’s purpose is to charm through its characters and story not through anything visually glamorous.
PERSONAL ENJOYMENT: 5/5
As I said before, this has become one of my favorite films. Not because of the music or anything fancy but because it leaves me with a feeling of relief and respect for its creators. It isn’t often that you find a film that endorses marriage and shows the emptiness that comes from engaging in counterfeit relationships. This isn’t a romantic film meant to glamorize love but to show true love and the happiness it brings to those willing to look for it and commit their life to another person.
OVERALL SCORE: 4.5/5
[after a long while, Gaston returns to Madame Alvarez’s apartment]
Gaston Lachaille: May I come in?
[Gigi shrinks into a corner, hoping to be spared]
Madame Alvarez: Please, Gaston… no papers… no scandal.
Gaston Lachaille: Madame, will you do me the honor, the favor… give me the infinite joy of bestowing on me… Gigi’s hand in marriage?
[Gigi, filled with relief and joy, draws to Gaston’s side]
Madame Alvarez: [smiles] Thank Heaven!
[“Thank Heaven for Little Girls” plays again]