Breakfast at Tiffany’s was a sacred movie in my family rising up. My mom’s VHS tape, fuzzily recorded off TV, was plastered in “don’t tape over” warning labels, a defence I might need to clarify to somebody born 10 years later than I used to be. The opening credit on this worn copy had been briefly disrupted with footage from the 1988 Wimbledon males’s ultimate – nonetheless overlaid, in an altogether pretty technological blip, with the wistful strains of Henry Mancini’s Moon River theme. The warning labels dated from shortly after this unlucky, swiftly aborted overlap.
I thus grew up pondering of Breakfast at Tiffany’s as a movie that belonged – through the tape, in a most literal and bodily sense – particularly to at least one particular person. After which, by extension, to me, as a sort of inheritance. We watched it many instances in my childhood, after I was moderately too younger to know what precisely Manhattan socialite Holly Golightly did along with her life – although, in my defence, the movie moderately sidesteps the difficulty too. Irrespective of: it was most likely considered one of my first encounters with pure film star energy, or at the least one of many first instances I recognised it as such. Audrey Hepburn, so completely doe-eyed and beehived and brightly humorous and winsomely unhappy, appeared as a lot to me a power of magic as Julie Andrews in Mary Poppins and The Sound of Music, even when the particular person she was enjoying made much less sense to me. And never least of all – most likely most of all, if I’m being sincere – there was a cat. Cats had been an affordable and simple technique to my coronary heart in a film: the whiplash of panic and reduction I felt over the rash disposal and cute retrieval of Holly’s ginger mog returns to me each time I watch it nonetheless.
All of which is to say that Blake Edwards’ primarily modest romantic comedy turned for me a kind of unusual texts by which you mark your personal shifts in understanding and perspective. Each few years it regarded just a little totally different: a bleak undertow appeared in Holly’s jolly on a regular basis carousel of events and suitors, as did the poignant aspirationalism of her morning window-shopping walks. The movie might undersell the irony and delicate sorrow of Truman Capote’s supply novella – studying that, too, makes the movie perpetually play in another way – however its between-the-lines stability of bitter to candy, too, tastes totally different with age. (I understood, too, why we often fast-forwarded by means of Mickey Rooney’s yellowface scenes as Holly’s crotchety Japanese landlord: I had thought them merely an unfunny diversion, although they had been definitely that too.)
With the movie now 60, and me practically 40, my affection for it endures – regardless of the methods wherein it softens and compromises Capote’s sharper, tarter character examine, or maybe due to them. It’s maybe one of many nice Hollywood examples of fine literary adaptation yielding a recent reward altogether, moderately than a devoted, secondary evocation. The movie’s sweetened love story between two (admittedly very fairly) social outliers – one a guarded extrovert, the opposite a author attempting to crack the world round him – could also be nothing like Capote’s extra indifferent, unromantic portrait of a girl alone in her crowded social whirl, aiming to attract totally different feelings from its viewers fully. However there’s nonetheless a young sort of fact to its sentimentality, and a heartsore vulnerability to Hepburn’s little-girl-lost efficiency that cuts by means of the cliche of that very description.
As a rural midwesterner whose on-loan uptown stylish is a well-wrought disguise, helping her escape from a life and marriage with out journey, Hepburn’s Holly Golightly is a sort of exaggerated emblem of who all of us turn into – at the least for a time – after we transfer away from residence and have the liberty to reintroduce ourselves to the world. You may see why Capote, who lobbied the studio to forged Marilyn Monroe within the half, was sad with Hepburn’s casting: there isn’t a a part of her, even buried deep inside, that speaks of center America. However because the carried out it-girl Holly, steadily dropping observe of her previous selves, she’s each movingly fragile – we’d get her wounded wanderlust even when she hadn’t been handed Moon River to sing in an ideal highlight scene, however it doesn’t harm – and irresistibly spritzy. A long time later, her efficiency stands as a sort of manic pixie dreamgirl prototype, effectively earlier than that inventory character was overwhelmed and infantilised with hyper-quirkiness.
In the meantime, regardless of the movie’s kissing-in-the-rain pleased ending would possibly say, she stays a romantic heroine primarily outlined by wilful independence: it’s important, and even perhaps acceptable, that Hepburn’s main man (the peerlessly likable George Peppard, some years earlier than grizzled A-Workforce renown) wasn’t remotely on her degree of celeb or luminosity. You may hint her DNA by means of an assortment of single (or singular) girls in New York in movie and TV, from Annie Corridor to Carrie Bradshaw to Frances Ha: she’s scarcely like all of them, after all, however you’ll be able to solidly wager on all these characters having seen Breakfast at Tiffany’s in some unspecified time in the future, and fostered desires of their very own Holly Golightly reinvention.
It’s what makes Holly, and Hepburn’s studying of her, worthy of the much-abused tag “iconic” – extra so, for higher or worse, than Capote’s extra barbed creation. She might certainly be extra icon than character at this level, her signature little black costume, updo and cigarette holder now a recognised code – and costume – for cosmopolitan city femininity even amongst individuals who have by no means seen Breakfast at Tiffany’s. Likewise, not everybody who continues to stay the movie’s immediately recognisable poster, with its multi-coloured border and magazine-style illustration, on their dorm-room wall is essentially a fan of the movie. It as a substitute stands for an summary nostalgia – not for lived expertise, however the glamour of a previous life – even amongst individuals too younger to recollect Deep Blue One thing’s yowling indie-pop ear worm Breakfast at Tiffany’s, steadily and fortunately receding within the movie’s cultural legacy.
It’s exhausting to think about many movies which have been so extensively damaged down into enduring photographs and echoing symbology, fairly independently of its personal fandom. Seems younger me was fairly unsuitable, regardless of the aura of that scratchy VHS tape: at 60, it seems, Breakfast at Tiffany’s type of belongs to everybody, whether or not they understand it or not.