I’ve spent much of my life not liking Gigi
. To be more precise, I was disgusted by the men’s attitudes and infuriated with the women’s behavior. In the Most Hated Musicals
Thread, I wrote, “With her grandmother and aunt's help up the steps, Gigi laid herself on the altar of second class citizenship. She had the chance to be formidable, but blew it.” I kind of resented her for caving and had similar reactions to the endings of Taming of the Shrew
, Two Gentlemen of Verona
and Annie Get Your Gun
. Where’s the conviction? Where are the strong women role models? After watching the film again last week, I softened my feelings towards the grandmother. I hadn’t noticed how she had tried to inform Gigi about what she was getting herself into. A weak attempt maybe, but for someone who knew no other life pursuit, the grandmother did make an effort. Besides my overwhelming distaste for Gigi’s reversal decision, I found the story and music to be, for the most part, a bore. There was little forward movement and the songs, though luckily shorter than song renditions in Kiss Me Kate
, were uninteresting or worse, creepy.
Enter Dual Focus Narrative. My textbook for the semester is Rick Altman’s The American Film Musical
, a wordy treatise on the theory of genre analysis. With the Dual Focus concept, he managed to turn on a light bulb over my head and walk me through a movie that I thought I had seen and understood, and said, “Forget everything you think you know and look at this from a different standpoint.” I’d become comfortable with the protagonist driven story and expected to follow along as plot points begat plot points. Sometimes I complained about the predictability, but I still liked the linear style.
The idea of parallelism as a “different principle of organization” was something I hadn’t really considered before, but I was intrigued, and by the end of the chapter Altman had sold me on the concept. Vincente Minnelli wasn’t wandering around haphazardly, fitting in songs willy-nilly. The scenes were very precisely choreographed to mirror Gaston and Gigi’s experiences and the montage scenes took on elevated meaning as they illustrated their similar predicaments. With the male/female, wealthy/beautiful, child/adult dichotomies all explored, the film turned into a much more interesting piece. I had dismissed it because of my convictions, but I had missed out because of my ignorance.
Dual Focus Narrative opens up a whole new way of looking at a film as psychology, sociology, history and ethics come into play while two characters slowly make their way to reconciliation. Even though I still don't like Gigi
, I'm now aware that there is more to it than I had given it credit for.