Posted by: greercn | February 15, 2011

Breakfast At Tiffany’s (1961)

Henry Mancini’s haunting score won an Oscar, as did his collaboration with Johnny Mercer on the astonishingly beautiful song “Moon River”. Mancini’s music and Mercer’s words are memorable. Showing this offbeat and rather daring film, in colour and on a big screen was an inspiring piece of programming for Stratford Picturehouse.

Based on Truman Capote’s rather bleak book of the same name, the film smoothes over the rough issues and questions posed in the 91-page story and goes for a more conventional love angle, unfolding between unconventional people. It doesn’t airbrush the book’s themes of prostitution and crime, but these are nicely hinted at rather than shoved at you.

Blake Edwards’ great directing achievement here is to contrast understatement and hyperbole. Gorgeous George Peppard plays Paul, a young writer who is having his bills paid by a rich woman. Patricia Neal is really quite affecting in this strong role.  But the picture belongs to Audrey Hepburn, who is Holly Golightly in every gesture, word and style icon way possible. Audrey lost out to Sophia Loren in “Two Women” for the Oscar and that is just plain wrong.

Holly lives off money made from ferrying messages from prison for a Mafia guy and other dubious sources of income. She goes to Tiffany’s jewellery shop when she feels the “mean reds” because “nothing terrible could ever happen at Tiffany’s”. Yes, it’s an early form of product placement and can’t have done the flagship store any harm, but who cares?

Crackerjack popcorn snacks, complete with free prizes, also feature. Drinking too much and smoking and partying all play major parts in this plot. Honestly, if the politically-correct lobby ever want to clean it up, there will be a frame of a cat in a box and that’s it.

The script, by George Axelrod, makes a good job of playing off Holly’s over the top bravado against Paul’s reined-in manner. Of course, you know it will turn out that they are both the same, underneath, but it’s a masterful cinema trick to contrast these in this natural way.

There are so many performances that are great. Mickey Rooney as Mr Yunioshi, the upstairs neighbour, is a hoot (although those wanting perfection will find much that is stereotyped in a difficult way for the modern viewer). Buddy Ebsen’s performance is such a stand out that he was cast as Jed Clampett in “The Beverley Hillbillies” on the strength of it, although he had previously decided to retire after “Breakfast”.

Martin Balsam plays an agent who is always on the make. But it’s Audrey Hepburn singing “Moon River”, on a fire escape, dressed casually that stays in your head forever.  All the film’s big stars – except Mickey Rooney – are dead now, but they live brightly through this film. Blake Edwards and George Axelrod have died too, but both left many achievements in their movies.

Having seen quite a few downbeat pictures lately, it was pure pleasure to see a fantastic rom com that is filled with beauty. I have to buy the DVD so as not to live without my huckleberry friend, whatever that phrase means. It may win the prize for most puzzling lyric in pre psychedelic pop days.

May I request more classic films be shown at Stratford Picturehouse, please?

There are still tickets available for the screening of “My Kidnapper” with Mark Henderson answering questions afterwards at Stratford Picturehouse tonight at 8.30PM. Go to the website for details www.picturehousecinemas.co.uk/cinema/Stratford_London

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