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Queensland State Library Cinema Screening: 'Breakfast At Tiffany's' Review

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by Matt Elliot Taylor (subscribe)
"Life is what happens to you while you're busy making other plans." - John Lennon
On November 3rd, a screening of Blake Edward's classic Hollywood romance tale Breakfast at Tiffany's [1961] is taking place at the Queensland State Library. And in case you're wondering, here's some background on the film.

In the early hours of a sunny day in New York City, a slender beauty emerges from a taxi and peers casually into a jewellery store window while eating a pastry. Who would have thought that something so seemingly uninteresting could be so poignant and memorable fifty years later?

Directed by the late Blake Edwards (who passed away last year), Breakfast at Tiffany's is based upon the significantly more stark novella from Truman Capote who wrote the character of Holly Golighty (Audrey Hepburn) to be a foul-mouthed and bisexual call girl, but of course studio executives would have just about had a coronary at the thought of it. In Edward's film, Holly is a carefree socialite living in New York coasting through life, clinging onto rich upper-class men whom she secretly wished she met years ago. But into her life and apartment block stumbles failing writer Paul Verjak (George Peppard), and together they show each other that real happiness is something we don't find ourselves, but it finds us through the people around us. Isn't that sweet?

A pioneer in the classic Hollywood movement of the 1950s to early-1960s, Breakfast at Tiffany's is remembered today for its light-hearted satire on the modern American consumerist ideologies of the 1950s as well as the commercial class struggle. At the centrepiece is a beautiful young woman who is still a child living in a simpler time when these things didn't matter so much. This feeling is brilliantly captured by Henri Mancini's "Moon River", and as it was written specifically for Audrey Hepburn to perform in the film, demonstrates its connection to the story. Mancini would go on to win the Academy Award for Best Original Song and Score.

At the core of the film is essentially your typical Hollywood love story, but what lies beneath is a story of growing up, and learning to leave the past behind. Holly is a child stuck in a woman's body and as her inner child tries harder and harder to escape, her struggle with a sense of freedom and happiness becomes almost impossible. She is a woman who uses because she is used in turn, and as Paul tries to let her out of the cage she closes herself in, we find it harder and harder to sympathise with her. Hepburn – in a career defining role – walks a tightrope in her portrayal of Holly, being of low morals and self-esteem, but at the same time helpless in a society that is beyond her and always has been. Blake Edwards does an excellent job of bringing this subtext to the surface while remaining funny, light-hearted and fun in true Edwards style.

Audrey Hepburn said that her role in this film was the hardest of her career, playing an extrovert when in real life she was quite the opposite. Her nervousness and lack of confidence in the character of Holly is very much a reality, and just as well Marilyn Monroe didn't end up starring (Capote was very unhappy with Hepburn getting the part over Monroe) because looking back now it's hard to imagine anyone else in that black dress with her hair up looking ever-so elegant. Couple this with a hauntingly beautiful love song as its centrepiece and you have a wonderfully nostalgic piece of filmmaking and a classic gem from the classic Hollywood era. Not only older married couples will reminisce at its beauty but also a whole new generation of dating movie-goers, who will not be able to help but go "awwww…." as the credits roll.

****1/2 out of *****

It's an excellent film to go and see on a date, whether it's your first one, or 1000th one. Next Thursday, November 3rd, the Queensland State Library is screening Breakfast At Tiffany's [1961], so go and see it on the big screen to fully experience one of Blake Edward's greatest achievements in cinema.
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Why? A classic love story on the big screen
When: November 3rd, 10:30am - 12:25pm
Where: Queensland State Library
Cost: Free
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