Sunday, 17 May 2009

I believe you are in league with the butcher.

No 486 - Breakfast at Tiffany's
Director - Blake Edwards.

You say, that we have nothing in common. No common ground to stand on. And we're falling apart. It was once again time for me to watch a massively famous piece of cinema which I have somehow missed. This is the worrying thing about this list, I haven't seen a lot of 'iconic' or 'must see' films. I feel like I'm gradually getting more cultured.

This film is a wonderful romantic comedy. It was made before the formula for romantic comedies was devised, and yet it manages to avoid a lot of the cliches that are now part of our contemporary rom-com scene - there was a brilliant blog about it on Empire Online, which has been inexplicably removed... Anyway, the frantic dash, the contrived argument, the sense of Acts. Each of these elements (which are now so common in our films) could have been in this film, and yet they aren't. The film is fresh and exciting, light and frothy and the script sparkles with a beautiful wit and lightness. It is also helped by one of my favourite elements of cinema from that decade - Technicolor - making each frame as vibrant and bright as the characters and script within it.

I want to begin with the characters, and I really want to start with one particular character. The only thing that this film really does wrong. That way I can sweep it under the carpet and talk about the many things the film has done right.

Mr Yunioshi. Holly Golightly's horribly stereotypical Japanese landlord and a massive example about everything that was wrong with prejudice, racial slurs and film making at that time.
This is not an attack on Mickey Rooney who is a great actor, but the 'Comedy Japanese Man' is not comfortable to watch and is even less so when it is a white comedian blacked up (or Asianed up...). At least in the making of, the whole cast and crew describe this moment as the one thing they really regret and would like to change.

So, with that out the way, I can start to talk about the sheer delight in our two protagonists. Starting with Holly Golightly.

I think Holly is an amazing character. It it really interesting, because she is not a nice person. She is a money grabbing, shallow, lazy, vacuous socialite. A liar and a fraud. It is hinted that she is an escort. She manipulates and uses men and then escapes them when she is bored or when they get too attached. However, despite those damning characteristics she remains adorable. That must be down to Audrey Hepburn. She is stunning (which always helps) and plays Holly with a dizzy naivete and innocence which balances out this cruel streak in her character. She never seems malicious or cruel. She is a bit hysterical. She is a bit insane. She is a walking contradiction managing to be massively over familliar but also a complete riddle of a person. But she is so lovable that you can easily see the attraction through her faults.

Not only that but Audrey Hepburn really is playing the guitar and singing Moon River. Mr Hughes told me and he knows a thing or two about playing guitars.

She is someone who will get you to do unspeakable things that you've never dreamed of doing, but who is fragile enough that you would do everything in your power to defend and protect her. It shows Hepburn's talent in portraying that. But it also explains why Paul would fall so deeply (and quickly) in love with her.

On a personal note, I found it interesting how many of my female friends have modelled parts of their lives on her. Holly's flippant, optimistic, over the top character is something that I've witnessed many times. As are the histrionics and contrived anarchy. Whilst I don't believe they have stolen their characteristics I believe that Holly Golightly may be a great example of the kind of women women would like to be. No real worries, no real responsibilities, no real morals. Beautiful clothes, champagne before breakfast and permanently glamourous.

As Holly moves her never ending line of men (be they clients or fabulously wealthy eligible bachelors or ex husbands) there is one man standing witness. Paul Varjak aka Fred.

The thing that I find interesting about Paul is that he isn't that pure a person either. He does, however, appear to have a pretty sweet deal going on.
  • Firstly, he has a magnificent house. It is completely gaudy and completely ridiculous, but so is everything in this film. He has flock wall paper. He has a gold phone. He has matching pajamas and bed sheets. Matching pale blue paisley patterned silk pajamas and bed sheets.
  • Secondly, he is an author. Surely the noblest and grandest of jobs. Poncing around in your dressing gown all day, searching for a muse. If only it paid well.... although that doesn't matter because
  • Thirdly, he is a kept man. Given regular payments by his older woman mistress.

I think Paul has stumbled into the perfect life ruined by only one thing. The ugly ugly sleeveless cardigan style waistcoat he constantly wears. Besides that, perfect life. However, it is ruined because he falls in love. Bloody love ruining any chance of morally dubious bliss, however it does mean he gets to witness the brilliant early 60s world of the flat below him.

The brilliant thing about Holly and her friends is they fall into a beautiful cliche of the early 60s. They are full of fast talking cool cats and fabulously dressed hip young things. Everyone is a darling and everyone is beautiful. There is a marvellous scene where a party takes place at Holly's house. It is insanity. But it is fantastic and so of its time.

Other things included the fantastic fact that the taxis are Cadillacs (a massive improvement on what New York has today) and one of the greatest lines I have heard for a while in film:
"But I am mad about Jose. I honestly think I'd give up smoking if he asked me."

Overall, I loved the film. I found it light and frothy. Vacuous and morally dubious (the main characters enjoy theft and flouting the rules/law on a regular basis). The film as a whole shares a lot with the main characters. Including the vibrancy and the joi de vivre which is so evident.

It is a very stylish film.

There is only one thing that really depressed me:
Holly brings her breakfast TO Tiffany's. In a paper bag....

I felt a bit cheated by that

No comments: