Paris is for silly lovers

The irony this morning is that I had to decide between two Alan Jay Lerner and Frederick Loewe musicals to watch (I suppose I could have chosen to watch nothing, but that's a different discussion) - My Fair Lady and Gigi. In the end, I decided in favor of brevity, the nearly three hours of My Fair Lady being a daunting commitment this early in the morning.

It's hard for me to properly gauge a musical. I don't watch that many, and thus I'm not familiar with how they're usually meant to work. So, I guess I have to talk about that most pedestrian of observations - whether I enjoyed the film.

I am, of course, joking.

Gigi (the musical) is, most of all, trying to be clever. This doesn't seem unusual for a musical - the very act of singing lines in dialog requires placing the tongue firmly in cheek. Our characters are full of silly ideas, perhaps something to do with living in Paris at the turn of the century (I guess I have to call that the "onset of the twentieth century" now).

Gigi (the character) is the apparently nubile young schoolgirl, and Gaston the man of leisure who runs with the Parisian social scene largely out of obligation. The story revolves around these two, but the best songs go to Maurive Chevalier as a relation of Gaston's, who lends his voice to the well known "Thank Heaven for Little Girls" and "I Remember It Well".

It's interesting how the film's values reflect what I want to call an American individuality. Whether it's out of place for Paris in that time is hard to say - it still is somewhat recent - but I'm not sure it matters. The fight over conformity is nothing new - it's just more recent when the value is truly placed on the individual.

There are moments of intriguing, but not obtrusive, camerawork, and many interesting environments for placing the action.

I find myself wanting to see more of Chevalier's character on screen, and wouldn't object to having him be the central character to the plot. But he is plainly seen as merely peripheral.

The plot is itself somewhat transparent, and we know the nature of several key scenes before they occur, but again, it hardly matters. Form appears to be important to the musical - the exaggerated nature of the actions need to be tempered by indulging the expectations of the audience. This isn't to say there's no surprise, no tension about how it will turn out. In the end, Gigi and Gaston find themselves in simultaneous fondness of each other, but of completely opposing opinions of what life together would be like. It makes for a delicious resolution that has more to do with character than just the expected in-each-others-arms sentimentality that would have been too easy to write.

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