Arts

“Breakfast at Tiffany’s” Review: The Past in the Present

COURTESY OF ABBIE CHENG

Sixty years ago, “Breakfast at Tiffany’s” debuted in movie theaters before seas of eager audiences. Based on Truman Capote’s novella and directed by Blake Edwards, the story is performed by critically acclaimed actors Audrey Hepburn and George Peppard. Revolving around the life of an eccentric Manhattan socialite, Holly Golightly (Hepburn), the plot layers complexity into her eyelash-batting and witty means of survival. Although the movie is portrayed within 20th century norms and social customs, Holly’s dilemmas remain as timeless as ever, instilling a sense of familiarity into modern audiences.

Holly’s untiring energy amid the bustling of booze-filled parties seemingly portrays a frivolous lifestyle, but audiences soon witness the sorrow and burden concealed beneath the superficial appearance. In a particularly moving scene, Holly, sitting on her balcony in a modest outfit,  strums the guitar and sings “Moon River” in a soft tune. This scene reveals a different Holly that we didn’t know existed, a country-side girl doing all she can to provide a home for her brother and herself. Identifying perplexity and fear as the “mean reds,” her only cure is gazing at the luxurious displays of Tiffany and Co., a place that she excludes from “reality.” At that moment, forlornness seeps through glass screens even sixty years later, tugging at the audience’s heart strings. As subtle joy reenters Holly’s visage, we are inspired to segregate from our own struggles and momentarily recoil into the comfort of our unique “otherworldly” locations.

Diving deeper into Holly’s character, it is evident that her infatuation with striving for “freedom” actually counteracts itself and instills a distorted perception of love into her life. At only 14 years old, she commenced the mundane life of a married woman in the countryside but soon ran away to escape the limitations of conformity. From the first scene to the last, Holly held on dearly to the belief that “people do not belong to people.” Although a true statement in itself, Holly’s misguided perceptions molded this motto into the opposite, where she ironically incarcerates herself in a cage constructed by her own mind, and turns to heartless indifference instead of true connection. As the decades have gone by, interpretations of “freedom” have changed drastically, but Holly will always remain a forward-thinker whose intentions valued independence. By helplessly watching Holly’s sufferings unfold due to her erroneous interpretation, the audience learns to never make the same mistake in their own lives. 

On a different note, one cannot forget the movie’s praise-worthy cinematography. Arriving as one of the last in the Golden Age of Hollywood, this production exemplifies the “once upon a time” of Hollywood at its peak. In the tranquil atmosphere of the opening scene, every light and angle is meticulously articulated. The soft glowing hues that create a romanticized presence, the lowly positioned camera that amplifies the elegance of Holly’s gait, and the subdued lighting that symbolizes the connection between fantasy and reality all blend together to foreshadow the story’s themes. Through the modern lens, many mourn in tragedy as the generously budgeted C.G.I.-dependent films overly rely on post-filming special effects editing. After all, the purity of this movie’s cinematography is what constitutes it as art. If any scene from cinematic history can be deemed perfection, this opening scene would be it.

Altogether, the complexity and the artistry of “Breakfast at Tiffany’s” undoubtedly bestows the movie a top ranking among the most memorable of the 20th century. As each second of the movie unravels, the audience reminisces over an unlived memory, stepping into an artwork that would project its mark onto history. Whether the viewer’s intent is to find amusement in a lighthearted comedy or ponder some of society’s underlying philosophical dilemmas, this timeless classic doesn’t fall short in either category. Even though numerous women have claimed to be the inspiration behind Capote’s story over the years, each has been more bewildering than the last. While no one among the living can elaborate on that truth, it is within the powers of this 1961 production to solidify one fact: some movies can age even better than fine wine.