Breakfast at Tiffany's [DVD]
Director : s Blake Edwards
Screenplay : George Axelrod (based on the novella by Truman Capote)
MPAA Rating : NR
Year of Release : 1961
Stars : Audrey Hepburn (Holly Golightly), George Peppard (Paul Varjak), Patricia Neal (Mrs. Failenson), Buddy Ebsen (Doc), Martin Balsam (O. J. Berman), José Luis de Villalonga (José da Silva Pereira), John McGiver (Tiffany’s salesman), Alan Reed (Sally Tomato), Dorothy Whitney (Mag Wildwood), Mickey Rooney (Mr. Yunioshi)
What is continually amazing about Breakfast at Tiffany’s is not how good it is, but how well it works despite its arch artificiality. One of the most “movie-ish” of movies, Breakfast at Tiffany’s seems to take place in a slightly askew netherworld where debauchery and romantic trifling happily coexist side-by-side and fashion not only defines characters, but becomes their very essence. Buried deep in it is a kernel of truth about human nature and its simultaneous desire for independence and security, but director Blake Edwards wraps it so deeply in layers of “charming” eccentricity and whimsy that it is never allowed to sprout.
Though the story takes place amid the hustle and bustle of New York City, it’s an oddly empty film, with the main characters drifting through a world that seems largely unpopulated by human beings except those that enter their sphere. This sense of isolation is established in the film’s opening shot, when the naïve, hopelessly independent heroine Holly Golightly (Audrey Hepburn) arrives in front of Tiffany and Co. early in the morning, her stylish black evening dress less a sign that she has been out all night than a marker of her distinct separation from everything around her. The fact that the role of Mr. Miyoshi, Holly’s always irritated Japanese upstairs neighbor, is played in broad yellowface stereotype by Mickey Rooney seems almost strangely appropriate for a film in which nothing seems quite real.
Holly is, of course, the defining role of Hepburn’s career, even though she was already a bona fide movie star with an Oscar in hand (for 1953’s Roman Holiday) and a decade of hits behind her. Hepburn’s waifish body was the perfect rack on which to hang Edith Head’s enduringly influential costumes, and her impossibly sweet, girlish face goes a long way in redeeming Holly’s highly questionable lifestyle (essentially sleeping with men for cash and gifts) and her incessant urge to land a man not for love, but for money and security.
It is no surprise that Holly is the character we remember, not the other half of the film’s romantic equation, Paul Varjak (George Peppard), a writer who moves into Holly’s building and becomes her unlikely confidant. While more grounded than Holly, Paul is himself a “kept man,” put up in a nice apartment and given clothes and money by a wealthy married woman in exchange for sexual favors. With the Production Code still vying desperately for some sense of control over Hollywood content, this is all discussed in broad, slightly vague terms, but it’s clear enough that both Holly and Paul have sacrificed romance for practicality.
Yet, George still believes in the possibly of love, while Holly resists, telling one of the men in her life at one point that he should never try to love a “wild thing.” Breakfast at Tiffany’s is, of course, about the taming of that wild thing, which makes it a far cry from Truman Capote’s bittersweet novella, which is far more resolute in maintaining Holly’s independence. Like most Hollywood romantic comedies, Breakfast at Tiffany’s primary goal is to elevate romantic love above all else, which doesn’t happen until a sudden last-minute turnaround, which only heightens the film’s slightly surreal quality. We never quite believe that Holly rejects her wild, independent ways for a life of contentment with someone as frankly dull as George, but it doesn’t jar as badly as it should, either, largely because Breakfast at Tiffany’s is clearly and openly at every turn a “movie.”
|Breakfast at Tiffany’s Anniversary Edition DVD|
|Distributor||Paramount Home Video|
|Release Date||February 7, 2006|
|The new anamorphic widescreen transfer of Breakfast at Tiffany’s is an improvement over the previously available disc. The image is clean and fairly sharp throughout, with only bits of minor softness. Colors have been improved in their vibrancy and intensity, but some may still feel they still look just slightly dull, although that may be the intended look of the film (people always seem to recall charming films like Breakfast at Tiffany’s as having overly bold colors even if they didn’t).|
|The original monaural soundtrack is available along with a newly mixed Dolby Digital 5.1 surround track that does a nice job of opening up Henry Mancini’s award-winning score and also heightening the ambient effects. It’s not a showy mix, but it works well.|
|The supplements on this new “Anniversary Edition” would seem to be a marked improvement over the virtually bare-bones disc previously available, but they are disappointing as a whole. For whatever reason director Blake Edwards couldn’t or wouldn’t record a commentary, so instead we get producer Richard Shepherd, who is amiable enough, but also frequently boring. He offers his insights into the making of the film, but there are long stretches where he doesn’t say anything and many of his comments are terribly obvious. The 16-minute featurette “The Making of a Classic” covers much of the same ground (although Edwards does show up here in some interviews). The other featurettes are mostly filler, especially two of them that are little more than ads for Tiffany and Co., although “It’s So Audrey: A Style Icon” is an entertaining look at Hepburn’s relationship to the world of fashion.|
Copyright ©2005 James Kendrick
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