Skip to main content

Empire List #486: Breakfast at Tiffany's

The great thing about a TV channel where they only show movies 24/7 is that eventually, you just might run into a classic. I do not currently even own a TV, but fortunately during the fall of 2009 I was spending my week off at my mother’s place in Quebec City where she does have the Movie Network. This allowed me to watch “Breakfast at Tiffany’s” a classic from 1961.

I didn’t know much about this movie except that it stars Audrey Hepburn, a giant of the screen in her days. I was familiar with the work of the director, Blake Edwards and his composer Henry Mancini. If you haven’t seen the original “Pink Panther” films, which are ten times better than the remakes, then you definitely must have heard its iconic theme at some point. With talent like that in front of and behind the screen I felt pretty confident this was a film worth watching.

Audrey Hepburn plays Holly Golightly, a firecracker of a character who owns every room she walks into. Her name sounds like that of a Bond girl from that era, when they were damsels in distress to be rescued by Sean Connery. It turns out to be a fake name since Holly is sort of a high-class call girl living in New York. Part of her weekly routine involves visiting Sally Tomato, an incarcerated mob boss who pays her $100 just for a one-hour conversation. It doesn’t hurt that she also carries messages for Sally’s drug ring.

The movie’s plot revolves around Holly slowly developing a romance with Paul Varjak (George Peppard) a new tenant in her building. Paul is a writer who hasn’t published anything in years and is about to get his creative juices flowing by meeting Holly.

There are many funny moments in the film. As a popular New York socialite, Holly invites dozens of people to her apartment. After a few too many cocktails, these wealthy characters start to really let loose. When a woman is about to drop to the floor inebriated, Holly yells “TIMBER” like a lumberjack who has just cut down a tree.

The constant going-ons in her apartment cause the ire of Holly’s Japanese landlord Mr. Yunioshi, a stereotypical character if there ever was one. Played by Mickey Rooney, who clearly is not Japanese, Yunioshi is constantly angry, wears round glasses, and has one thick accent that is played for laughs. It’s difficult to tell what is more offensive for Japanese viewers: the fact that the character is a joke, or that he is played by a Caucasian man. You would think that decades later Hollywood would have learned from mistakes like these, but 2010 was the year when people wanted to boycott M. Night Shyamalan’s “The Last Airbender” because he cast Caucasian actors in what was meant to be Asian roles.

But back to the film at hand. A great story involves conflict and the greatest conflict with this particular story involves the obstacles standing between Holly and Paul. Holly likes Paul, but she means to use her socialite status to get close to wealthy men with the hopes of possibly marrying one and running off into the sunset. Paul doesn’t care about money; he only cares about being with Holly and is upset by her obsession with money. But it isn’t just about her. She also has a brother to support, and since her socialite status is the only way she can think of to make money, marrying a rich man seems like the best solution to all of her problems.

Will Holly and Paul get together in the end? Well let’s put it this way: this isn’t “Casablanca.”

You can tell a movie is a classic when it influences pop culture. I like the CSI franchise and during one episode of CSI: New York three young women rob a store dressed as Holly Golightly. Not the most inconspicuous of disguises to commit a robbery but you have to admire the idea that even thieves in New York love classic movies from the 1960s.


Popular posts from this blog

Empire Magazine (2008) Greatest Movies List - #70: Stand by Me

Another clear influence on Stranger Things, Rob Reiner’s Stand by Me (1986) portrays American kids from a lost era in which they could go on an adventure away from home. Nowadays if children go missing for more than an hour parents try to locate them using cell phone apps, but in the story written by Stephen King four boys in 1959 Oregon go walking in the woods during a long weekend to look for, of all things, a dead body. Their lives are sometimes at risk, they have no way of communicating with their parents, but they will definitely have a story to remember for the rest of their lives.
For many North Americans adults this movie fondly reminded them of a time in their childhood despite the inherent danger. Not so for me since, first of all, there was no time in my childhood when I could possibly go out of the house for more than three hours without my mom getting in her car to go look for me. The there is the fact that I spent a good chunk of my childhood living in Chile and Peru, an…

Empire Magazine (2008) Greatest Movies List - #77: Spartacus

Spartacus (1960) is an interesting movie in Stanley Kubrick's filmography because it doesn’t really feel like a Stanley Kubrick movie. I don’t exactly know why, but his signature style doesn’t seem to be present unlike in classics such as The Shining, A Clockwork Orange, or Dr. Strangelove. It does however feel like one of those big sword-and-sandals epics in which you have British thespians acting as Roman politicians with the occasional big battle sequence. In that respect it is spectacular and features Kirk Douglas at his best as the titular hero.
The story of the rebel slave Spartacus has inspired a bloody and sexy TV series (so far unseen by me, but I hear it’s great) and the story behind how it was made is one of those cases of life imitating art. The Bryan Cranston film Trumbo tells how screenwriter Dalton Trumbo was blacklisted in Hollywood during the 1950s for his communist beliefs and had to rebel against the system by writing screenplays for cheap movies under a fake nam…

Empire Magazine (2008) Greatest Movies List - #79: The Thin Red Line

I once saw an interview in which Christopher Plummer said that what Terrence Malick needs is a writer. He was referring to his experience shooting The New World, which saw his role considerably reduced. The same happened to a much greater extent with Malick’s war movie The Thin Red Line (1998), which saw the screen time of many movie stars reduced to mere minutes amid a 170-minute running time. However you have to hand it to the guy: he knows how to make anything look beautiful, including the carnage of war.
Malick’s movie came out the same year as Saving Private Ryan, so I think that year I had my fill of ultra violent war films and was no too interested in seeing it. Sixteen years later I finally caught up to it on Netflix, but in hindsight the big screen might have been a better option since this is a very visual story. The plot is pretty loose, following one American soldier and sometimes some of his brothers in arms as they make their way through World War II in the Pacific theat…