Breakfast At Tiffany’s

8 03 2009

FADING IN from the blackness, with the opening strains of the Henry Mancini-Johnny Mercer haunting classic “Moon River” playing on the background, the screen breaks into a gray sky morning.   It is rather an unusually uncrowded one on the streets of Manhattan.  A lone big yellow taxi zooms from the far end to the foreground and stops right in front of a still-closed store at the corner of Fifth Avenue and 57th Street.  The backseat door opens and off alights a young lady, a vision in a Hubert de Givenchy black dress, complete with opera gloves, and strands of pearls adorning her stately neck.  She stops right in front of the imposing door, slowly lifts her head up and briefly stares at the sign above her – “Tiffany & Co.”.  She walks towards a window display and admires it leisurely.  Clutching her white coat with her left arm, she carefully frees the contents of her white paper bag.  She pulls out a danish (that’s what the breakfast pastry looks to me) and then a cup of coffee.  With the first bite she takes of the danish, I know without a doubt that I just got lured into her world – the world of Holly Golightly.

 

BREAKFAST AT TIFFANY’S tells the story of Holly Golightly, an eccentric but endearing New York City playgirl (term used very loosely) in a determined pursuit of a millionaire she could marry (she keeps track of the  ranking of the richest men in America under 50”).  Six minutes and 18 seconds into the film, she meets Paul Varjak, a struggling young writer, fresh from his flight from Rome, moving in to his new apartment in Holly’s building.  He asks to use her telephone and the very moment he steps in through Holly’s door, he is ushered into her dizzying – but delightful – life.

 

He never got to telephone his “friend” that he was supposed to meet on that Thursday morning as this declaration (it’s Thursday) sends Holly into a frenzy.  She runs to the bathroom and hastily, brushes her teeth, fixes her hair, puts on her make-up…  and dresses up.  Paul, trying his best to stay in step with Holly’s ceaseless blabbering, realizes that Holly visits an infamous incarcerated suspected mafia leader “Sally Tomato” on Thursdays.  She keeps the old man company, cheers him up, and gets the “weather report.”  And for this effort, she gets $100 from Mr. Tomato’s lawyer, a Mr. O’Shaughnessy.  She further reveals that she could make the same amount on dates as she expects a gentleman to give her $50.00 for change for the powder room, and another $50.00 for the cab.  So after doing it for seven months, she realizes that she is visiting Mr. Tomato not really for the money anymore, but because she has found the old man endearing.

 

Holly makes a mad dash to the bathroom and with the pair of black alligator shoes she and Paul worked together to find (“Would you be a darling and look under the bed for a pair of alligator shoes?…  Black alligator.”), she is out the door and hailing a cab.

 

A cab pulls over, and as its door flings open, Holly meets a Mrs. Failenson, Paul’s “decorator” friend.  But with the way Mrs. Failenson looks at Paul – and the way she gives Holly an almost dagger stare, so cold it could freeze Manhattan on a summer day – she is not just a “friend” of his.  Later on, in a scene in Paul’s apartment, Holly gets blunt with Paul and what the audience already knows is revealed – Paul is a “sponsored” young writer.

 

$300.  She’s very generous.  Is that by the week, the hour or what?

 

And what ensues is one of the most poignant moments in the film.  Holly and Paul are the quintessential fast friends as they begin opening up about their very personal lives to each other – all on the evening of their first meeting.  Holly makes ends meet by trying to save up whatever she can (while she is yet to snatch that dashing millionaire of hers).  Paul, on the other hand, is still struggling as a writer – on his 5th year of a dry spell since releasing his 1956 book, a compilation of nine stories aptly called “Nine Lives.”

 

One day, a suspicion raised by Mrs. Failenson, which Paul pursues, unwittingly reveals – not that their trysts are indeed being watched – but rather a glimpse of Holly’s past.  As the film progresses, the fast friendship slowly metamorphoses into a rather shaky romance that doesn’t feel forced.  It is a friendship that takes its time – where no one puts on a front or the better foot forward.  Shaky.  Rather unexpected.  Wonderfully offbeat.

 

A couple of scenes from the movie really captured my attention.  When Paul sold a story and received a check (worth $50.00) for the payment of the first draft of his original story, “Roman Caper,” Holly has the wonderful idea to celebrate – spending the whole day doing things they have never done before.  First Holly’s turn, then Paul’s.  Then they took turns.  A morning walk on Fifth Avenue.  A trip to Tiffany’s (“Do you see what I mean that nothing bad could have happened to me in a place like this?”).  The Public Library (“I don’t think this place is half as nice as Tiffany’s.”).  A Five and Ten (“Did you ever steal anything from a Five and Ten when you were a kid I mean?”).

 

And of course there is that scene at the end.  Where all the brewing feelings reach that defining moment of truth.  The scene was as simple as where it happens – the backseat of a big yellow taxi, on a heavily raining New York day.  But the emotions are raw and so real, they are almost palpable.  There they are, two people searching for love for the longest time…  only to realize thay they will find it in the most unlikely place – not out there in the bright lights of the big city that is New York.  And not with a dashing millionaire or a rich older woman.

 

It was with each other.

 

Based on Truman Capote’s novella of the same title and released in 1961, BREAKFAST AT TIFFANY’S is one of the real American classics.  It stars Academy Award winner Audrey Hepburn as Holly Golightly and George Peppard as Paul Varjak, supported by a formidable ensemble that includes Mickey Rooney and Academy Award winner Patricia Neal.

 

Audrey Hepburn blends the right combination of captivating beauty, naivety, whimsical persuasion and worldy wisdom and lends it to the character of Holly Golightly.  Holly leads a playful and dizzily fast-paced life but a part of her is vulnerable to melancholy and – I must say – to the “mean reds.”  And this dash of melancholy is no better expressed than through Ms. Hepburn’s eyes.  See her sing “Moon River” on her windowsill and you will know what I mean.  I couldn’t imagine any other actress of that era who could’ve breathed life to Holly the way Ms. Hepburn did.

 

The DVD Batman and I got from Astroplus at The Podium was just so clear though it doesn’t say “remastered.”  The cinematography captures the soul and the spirit of New York, especially with the shots outside Holly’s and Paul’s apartment building.  The far shot of the inside of Tiffany’s (during their trip) evokes that feeling of grandeur that only a really high-end store can (and I guess it could’ve inspired that big Tiffany & Co. proposal scene in Sweet Home Alabama).  And I will be remiss if I will not make mention of the wardrobe.  Hubert de Givenchy is a master.

 

BREAKFAST AT TIFFANY’S, through the character Holly Golightly, will open your eyes to the fact that you have your own “Tiffany’s” – a place where nothing bad happens, where everything is beautiful.  A place that “calms” you down.  But beyond that, this film will open your eyes to a deeper realization of truth that this can be found not just in something.  But, more importantly, in someone else.  Someone else real.  Not “ideal.”  But real.

 

And sometimes, with someone who has been right in front of you all along.

 

 

 

Best sound bites:

 

“I never could do that.” – Paul Varjak (only because this was the only point in the film that the delivery of the line – intonation – doesn’t sound dated, as in the “60’s.”)

 

“It’s useful being top banana in the shock department.” – Holly Golightly

 

I’m supposed to not fritter my talent away on little things.  I’m supposed to be saving it for the big one. – Paul Varjak (on why he had shifted to writing a novel from writing short stories.)

 

And my absolute favorite (a part of a real good exchange):

 

People do fall in love.  People do belong to each other.  Because that’s the only chance anybody’s got for real happiness.”  – Paul Varjak

 

 

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3 responses

9 03 2009
eyes only

Breakfast at Tifffany’s is one of the best classic romance movies out there. Ranks high with Casablanca, An Affair to Remember and It Happened One Night, among others. If one is starting to watch/collect classic movies, this is a good one to start with. This movie has the right combination of elements that a movie needs: Star (Hepburn and Peppard), Director (Blake Edwards), novel/story to which the movie is based on (by Truman Capote), music/score (Mancini) and of course, fashion (gowns were designed by Givenchy and costume supervisor was Edith Head).

Audrey Hepburn is best remembered for her portrayal of Holly Golightly, and I always remember her wearing that famous black dress by Givenchy as an iconic image of elegence and style.

Trivia: The black dress by Givenchy that she had worn is the second most expensive piece of movie memorabilia ever sold. (The first is the 1939 Best Picture Oscar for Gone with the Wind.)

The story which Paul received the $50 check for is called Roman Caper is a reference to Audrey Hepburn’s first starring role, Roman Holiday (1953). Hepburn won an Oscar (Best Actress in a Leading Role) for this movie.

Wow, hindi lang sa watches and food/resto may style si Bossing Enteng, pati movie tastes! 🙂

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9 03 2009
entengvince

Thanks for your comments (here and everywhere else!), Eyes Only.

It’s funny that I have actually seen all the movies you mentioned here. I’m very fortunate to have a friend who has introduced me to the finer things in the movies :)… I love Casablanca!

Thanks for reading my posts!

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10 03 2009
v(*-*)v Lei

one of my best loved movies ever… one, it’s a classic (and classy too) because.. second, ilove audrey! (she’s an icon for elegance) third, i just love the quote: “i don’t want to own anything until I know I’ve found the place where me and things belong together. I’m not quite sure where that is just yet. But I know what it’s like…. It’s like Tiffany’s…. “~Truman Capote, Breakfast at Tiffany’s, 1958, spoken by the character Holly Golightly…

and yes, i’d love to have my own tiffany blue small box n a white ribbon 😉 ahihi

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