Breakfast at Tiffany's: 50th Anniversary Blu-ray ReviewSeptember 24, 2011
One of the key attributes a film needs is the ability to remain timeless, and few films feel quite as timeless as Blake Edwards' classic, Breakfast at Tiffany's. The film was originally released 50 years ago, and to honor the anniversary, Paramount Pictures has brought Breakfast at Tiffany's into the high definition age in a nearly perfect package to compliment this nearly perfect film.
Breakfast at Tiffany's follows the antics and exploits of Miss Holly Golightly, portrayed here by the marvelous and beloved Audrey Hepburn. Ms. Golightly is a young socialite living in New York City in a rather nice suite with a cat simply named "Cat". Despite her gorgeous appearance and put together demeanor, Holly comes across as quite haphazard in her decision making and money spending. She also seems to have a never-ending waft of unwanted male attention, and is constantly trying to find her way out of the awkward situations this attention and her looks lands her in.
One fateful day, she encounters Paul Varjak (George Preppard), a writer who has just moved in upstairs. Paul, like most men who encounter Holly, becomes almost immediately smitten with her. Unlike nearly all of the other men in her life, Holly seems to find a sort of kindred spirit in Paul, and begins to become kind of attached to him in her own very detached way.
As their friendship progresses, though, and Paul becomes even more enamored with her, Holly reveals what she's truly looking for; one of the richest men in the world. The beginnings of a rift between the two emerges, and only grows more and more as Paul discovers the truth about Holly and that she may not be the person she puts herself on to be.
There's no shortage of reasons as to why this film became not only an instant hit, but has remained such a revered bit of film history. It features a story that is equal parts hilarious and serious, and even a bit risque, especially for that time period.
Even though the film employs many overdone storytelling devices, it manages to pull them off in a rather believable manner that keep many of the movies big moments from feeling contrived or forced. Everything feels organic, and that's as much a compliment to the filming and technical aspects as it is to the actors themselves.
Speaking of actors, this film simply would not be everything that it is without Hepburn's turn as Holly, which would come to no surprise to her millions of fans, but is slightly surprising as it wasn't originally intended to be her in the lead role. When Truman Capote wrote the original novel in 1958, he envisioned and wrote the character with Marilyn Monroe in mind, and only allowed his story to be turned into a film under the condition that Monroe would portray Golightly. Monroe's agent feared that the seemingly "call girl" nature of the role would be a blemish on Marilyn's public image, so she turned it down, opening the role for Hepburn to swoop in and truly make it her own. Hepburn's natural appeal makes the slightly sleazier aspects of her character carry a much lighter tone to them that one would normally apply under such connotations, as well as leading credence to her back story and naivety.
While Hepburn is obviously the big draw of the film, I do feel that Director Blake Edward's vision is just as much a vital component as any of the acting in the film. With a resume primarily in TV leading up to this point in his career, Edward's was truly able to shine with 'Breakfast at Tiffany's', which contains some of the best set blocking and staging in a film, not just from that time period, but of all time. There are quite a few horror stories concerning what had to go on to nail some of the shots, including the now iconic opening title scene, but Edwards persevered and ended up with what may just be his best Directorial effort.
With so much about the film worth applauding, it's not without its minor faults. As loose as the story is with a structured plot, it can come off as a bit predictable. It's hard to tell if that's just from knowing the film, or if such means of storytelling have been done to death so much within the past fifty years since Breakfast at Tiffany's premiere that aspects, primarily the romantic ones, come off as a bit played out. It's also a bit reaching to assume Holly is oblivious to some of her misdeeds, but these things are marginal at best and don't come close to taking away from the picture as a whole.
Breakfast at Tiffany's comes to the High Definition world with a brand new transfer, headed up by Ron Smith, the VP of Preservation and Restoration at Paramount (whom I was also able to interview in regards to this release), and it must be seen to be believed! There are far too many good things to say about this, which comes as a relief as not only does Paramount have a somewhat spotty track record with their transfers, but there were also some early rumblings in regards to the transfer itself.
Here, colors shine and pop like never before and actually flaunt how colorful of a film this really is, as no previous release of the film has shown before. Fine detail, such as hair and clothing, is incredibly apparent and authentic. There are a few very soft spots on various close-ups of the cast, but as I assumed, and was confirmed with talking to Mr. Smith, these are simply issues with the materials where in a soft focus was used in the original filming to hide age and blemishes of the actors being filmed. Rest assured, not only is this the best the film has ever looked, but it's one of the best older films I've seen in High Definition to date.
The soundtrack, while not as mind-blowing as the transfer, still holds its own and manages to even be slightly impressive. Featuring a 5.1 DTS-Master Audio track, it really shows just how much can be obtained out of an originally mono soundtrack.
The real star here within the audio is the score by Composer Henry Mancini. Every song, especially the opening theme, packs the film with life right from the get go, and maintains a strong, but balanced effect throughout the rest of the film.
There's also a fair share of use out of all the speakers, particularly during the party scene and the rainstorm at the end. This stands out as not just another excellent aspect of the disc, but also a testament to Paramount putting some actual care into the film.
Beyond the Feature
For this 50th anniversary edition of Breakfast at Tiffany's, Paramount has ported over quite a few special features from previous releases, while also creating some brand new ones specifically for this Blu-ray release. All of these new additions are also presented in HD.
Audio Commentary with Producer Richard Shepherd - While this commentary has its moments of insight and anecdotes, it also has a lot of dead time. When Shepherd's on point, there's some truly fascinating recollections, but at times he can also seem to meander about and just randomly addresses wants going on onscreen. I'd suggest giving it a shot if you're a big fan or interested in knowing more about the film, just be prepared for some lulls.
A Golightly Gathering (HD, 20 min) - This is a rather interesting feature bringing together much of the cast from the infamous party scene and having them discuss the filming and sequencing of that pivotal scene within the film.
Henry Mancini: More Than Music (HD, 21 min) - This takes a look back at the composer himself and his creation of the film's memorable score.
Mr. Yunioshi: An Asian Perspective (HD, 17 min) - Mickey Rooney's portrayal of the Asian landlord has come under fire in the past 20 years. Here, an Asian perspective is offered and is captivating as well as interesting.
Breakfast at Tiffany's: The Making of a Classic (SD, 16) - Although brief, this is a pretty informative behind the scenes look at the film. From crafting the story, to casting, to execution; near about everything is covered here.
It's So Audrey! A Style Icon (SD, 8 min) - This one seems rather self-explanatory. It takes a look at Audrey in some of her biggest roles and her impact on our culture as a whole.
Behind the Gates: The Tour - A tour of Paramount pictures, primarily through photos. It's kind of neat, but feels more self-congratulatory than informative.
Brilliance in a Blue Box (SD, 6 min) - A brief, mildly interesting piece on the Tiffany department store.
Audrey's Letter to Tiffany (SD, 2 min) - Design Director John Loring recites the preface Audrey wrote in 1987 for Tiffany's 150th anniversary book.
Galleries - Comprised of three still galleries; the movie, production and publicity. Some truly remarkable photos are found here, many of them reminding me of a time when movie marketing had a bit more elegance to it and everything wasn't just poorly Photoshopped together.
Theatrical Trailer (HD, 2 min)
Even 50 years later, Breakfast at Tiffany's remains a high water mark for film and seems to actually get better with age. Hepburn is at her most iconic in this film, and finally having her performance, and the film itself, in High Definition is a true gift. Paramount went above and beyond and made this a true anniversary edition, rather than just slapping a name on it. This film deserves a place in any film fans collection, and as of now this is the best, and only way someone should enjoy it.
- Matt Hardeman
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