Friday, 20 July 2012

Breakfast At Tiffany's (1961)

(Credit for the poster goes to David O'Daniel)

Obviously I am one hard ass gangsta and only watch the manliest of films, as you can see from my choice here.

In truth, I've actually been thinking lately that I haven't really seen any of the earlier films that always make the list of "classics". It was either this or Citizen Kane, and Kane seemed a bit heavy to start watching at midnight. Audrey Hepburn as  quirky socialite Holly Golightly on the search for money (and secondarily, love) in 60s New York is a lot easier to follow.

Despite being 51 years old this year, Breakfast at Tiffany's still holds up strong. There are a few stylistic touches in the shooting that feel quite dated, especially the cuts in conversations, but they're just relics of the time and not too intrusive. Some things are a little more difficult to forgive: Mickey Rooney (a white man) is made up to look like the Japanese owner of Holly's building. Not only is the character essentially in  the "blackface" equivalent for Asians, but even if he were played by an ethnically correct actor, the character is such a blanket stereotype that the only thing that eclipses the laziness of the writing is its offensiveness.

Other characters, thankfully, are less of an assault on the morals. Holly's love interest is played largely as a subdued and laid back guy by George Peppard, who only drops the casual act when Hepburn's character seems to be displaying too much independence for the time period. Hepburn herself is charming and somewhat ethereal as Holly Golightly. The extent of her charm and eccentricities are pretty unbelievable, but Hepburn has the elegance and general delightfulness to really sell it.

The film feels startlingly contemporary visually. It may be from how far removed from the early sixties we are now, but it doesn't feel so much dated as it does stylised. The colour palette and pace capture the feel of the early morning haze that hangs over the iconic opening credits sequence, and never really let go until the final, rainy scenes where it's as appropriate as the u-turn both the protagonists take in said scenes.

It's sad that such a charming film with a performance as enthralling as Audrey Hepburn's  is marred by the laziness and insensitivity of one caricature. But that aside Breakfast at Tiffany's is certainly deserving of its spot in many of the "Top [x]" lists.

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