BREAKFAST AT TIFFANY’S (Blake Edwards, 1961)

Audrey Hepburn’s best performances would remain those she gave in Roman Holiday (William Wyler, 1953) and Sabrina (Billy Wilder, 1954), but I suspect that her most widely and warmly remembered one is as Holly Golightly (best actress, David di Donatello Award, Film Daily’s poll of U.S. critics nationwide), an expensive Manhattan call girl—though formerly the unsophisticated Lulamae Barnes from Tulip, Texas—in Blake Edwards’s bowdlerized, prettified version of Truman Capote’s 1958 novella Breakfast at Tiffany’s. (The character’s earlier name sounds suspiciously like that of Capote’s mother: Lillie Mae Persons.) Holly can seem carefree only because she is so well connected, but even so she is plainly disturbed beneath her party-girl brilliance, beseiged by nightmares and in conspicuous denial of the film’s complacent (and phony) message that people belong to each other. The star of Green Mansions (Mel Ferrer, 1959) is once again playing, despite the city surrounding Holly, a “wild thing”—and an impossibly naive and innocent one. The party sequence in Holly’s apartment is so memorable, perhaps, because Edwards there is able to get at what he is after without the impediment of George Axelrod’s preachy script: the obliviousness of these people—an application of the attitude of Jacques Tati’s Monsieur Hulot. (One guest ignites another with her cigarette in a ridiculously long cigarette holder without either realizing it; without concern, another guest drowns the potential disaster.) Holly Golightly lives so much inside her own head because she is too afraid to live anywhere else. She may appear to be on top of things, but she must always “go lightly.”
     George Peppard is very good as the Capote-character, Paul Varjak, a struggling writer whose apartment in the same East Side brownstone as Holly’s is being subsidized by his older married lover, “2E” (Patricia Neal)—his “lady bountiful,” as Macaulay Connor might say. (Holly calls him Fred, the name of her younger brother, whom she adores.) The poignancy of his and Holly’s impossible relationship, despite the happy ending, is keyed to the fortunes of Holly’s cat, named Cat, the object of considerable abuse from Holly that breaks our heart.
     As does Henry Mancini and Johnny Mercer’s wistful “Moon River,” sung here for the first time, by Holly, who is taking a break from cleaning the apartment, as she sits on the fire escape and plaintively aches for the Lulamae she left behind.

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