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Review: Blake Edwards’s Breakfast at Tiffany’s on Paramount DVD

Hey, Paramount. The 45th anniversary is the sapphire anniversary.

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Breakfast at Tiffany’s

Okay, so if Truman Capote’s original story Breakfast at Tiffany’s had a soundtrack, it probably wouldn’t have been Henri Mancini’s vacuum-packed elevator hit “Moon River” but an irreverent, uptempo version of Billy Strayhorn’s “Lush Life,” preferably pounded out on a piano by Nina Simone. And, sure, Capote’s original choice for Holly Golightly was Marilyn Monroe, even if a more appropriate choice would’ve been something along the lines of The Pajama Game’s pompadour-sporting Doris Day by way of Melina Mercouri. (To say nothing of the immortal Warhol superstar who likely got her name from Capote’s fictional character: Holly Goodlawn.) So every last hint of pansexuality appears to have been tucked away by scripter George Axelrod into the mottled fur of Holly’s gender-neutral “Cat.” So what? Blake Edwards’s discontent-but-charmed portrait of a long-lost New York state of blithe is, like most Blake Edwards films, narratively scattershot but reliably fixated on the cinematic chemistry of social relations in a mod (and post-mod) era, which invariably boil down to genders and the extent to which individuals ascribe to their assigned sex roles. As Holly, Audrey Hepburn has about as much edge as a Tiffany diamond replica made of tapioca, and her nondescript accent (product of a cross-European upbringing) couldn’t hail a cab to save her life, but what better way to foreshadow her character’s incredibly mundane past as a fugitive from the land of Hee-Haw Honeys? On the opposite end of the spectrum, Mickey Rooney’s “chink” stereotype as Holly’s long-suffering, buck-toothed upstairs neighbor is indefensibly foul, but at the same time it buttresses Edwards’s milieu, which is practically a first-person account from Holly’s point of view: c’est chic cosmopolitanism as fantasized about late-night by middle-American pageant bait. I bet you thought I’d go from unpacking Hepburn’s ying to examining George Peppard’s ying-a-ling. But, as Capote’s alter ego, Peppard’s portrayal of Paul Varjak (part-time writer and full-time kept man) is the film’s real wash, almost as neutered as Philip Seymour Hoffman’s Capote. Then again, what more could a transplanted country girl living her big city “Moon River” daydreams hope for than a desexualized version of her strapping hunk of a brother?

Image/Sound

The last video incarnation was anamorphic, though the colors were a big disappointment. You’d think this updated version’s neon pink cover (is that what color Tiffany boxes were?) would correspond to a miraculously reinvigorated promenade of richly saturated hues. But, alas, the DVD presentation is still like a drab, unfurnished walk-up flat. On the positive side, the picture is clear and handles some difficult scenes (like the coda’s rainstorm) with acceptable results. The sound comes in three varieties, a 5.1 remix as well as two mono soundtracks for English and French. The 5.1 remix gives Henri Mancini’s incidental music a round low end, and most of the foley effects aren’t too conspicuously directional.

Extras

Imagine opening up a Tiffany’s box and finding that engraved Cracker Jack prize inside. That’s what the extra features of this “Anniversary Edition” are like. The only potentially substantial new addition is a commentary track from the film’s producer Richard Shepherd. (Was Blake Edwards too busy stroking his honorary Oscar to drop in?) Shepherd is clearly not up to the task, repeating himself and falling silent for minutes at a time. If you listen closely, you can just barely hear the faint sound of snoring halfway through. As far as the featurettes go, only one deals with the film itself, and the rest are mainly devoted to schilling the legacy of Tiffany’s.

Overall

Hey, Paramount. The 45th anniversary is the sapphire anniversary. Or is that why your new edition of Breakfast at Tiffany’s is hardly a diamond?

Cast: Audrey Hepburn, George Peppard, Patricia Neal, Buddy Ebsen, Martin Balsam, José Luis de Villalonga, John McGiver, Alan Reed, Dorothy Whitney, Mickey Rooney Director: Blake Edwards Screenwriter: George Axelrod Distributor: Paramount Home Video Running Time: 115 min Rating: NR Year: 1961 Release Date: February 7, 2006 Buy: Video, Soundtrack

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