The Prima Donna Pre-Minnelli

29 Aug 2013: Gigi (DVD, 1949, Jacqueline Audry)

This is “just” a DVD extra for Vincente Minnelli’s much more famous version, which I haven’t seen yet, but although light it’s quite well made and acted. Watching it provokes the thought that perhaps what’s so striking and enchanting about Minnelli’s style is its connection to a cinematic mode more sincerely romantic and tender than much of his Hollywood contemporaries but which seems to permeate much of French film from far back. Even in this low-budget work we have characters who convincingly both live in a removed fantasy-land and firmly in the real world at the same time – something I admire as a cinephile pseudo-union-organizer – charming their fellow characters and the audience with naïveté, humor and yearning, but also impressing them with a keenly perceptive eye for relationships and social dynamics. Gigi in fact seems to carry all others away – her relatives, her lovers – from their more fatalistic or stoic outlooks and understandings, yet when she’s given an obvious opportunity for much-dreamed-of success and excitement, she holds back the most due to her awareness of the possible consequences. It’s her approach to the dilemma and her spirited attitude that elevate this minor film above the dull high-society materialistic melodrama it could have been otherwise.

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