Gigi ★★★½

A coy reminder to stop and smell the roses, such flora presented here as a passel of colorful nymphets, about to be ripe for the picking. Somehow even creepier for its insistence upon couching all this sleaze in a decorous Belle Époque aesthetic, but it’s hard to argue with Minnelli’s results, and the film is so efficient at mixing sugar with spice (and a little sprinkling of filth) that it’s difficult to condemn it, in spite of the extremely outdated sexual politics. The mixing of garish Freed Unit frippery with much darker stuff (the suicide song in particular), further ballasted by weirdly distinctive moments that fringe on kink (Gaston spanking his adolescent soon-to-be-mistress), means you can even view this as subversive if you squint your eyes a little. The women are brusquely competent, and often sexually experienced, without ever being ruthless. The men are juvenile enough that the poaching of girls 10-40 years their junior can be seen as less predatory than essential for their childish natures. None of this really matters, since Gigi is such a delightful aesthetic and technical bauble, a quality ultimately unchanged by its grosser elements.