Sunday, 18 January 2009

Breakfast at Tiffany's by Truman Capote & Audrey Hepburn by Barry Paris

I came to Breakfast at Tiffany's in the strangest way. In my first year at University another (male) student living on the floor below me, the most fitting description I can muster up being a short, consistently stoned DJ who claimed he'd dated Sophie Dahl. He gave me a copy of Breakfast at Tiffany's on Video and told me I should treat it as a blueprint on how every woman should live her life. Now, I don't know whether it was intended as a put-down or as a joke but it has led me to places I never expected and for that, I thank him.

So firstly the film, as this was where I arrived at first - directed by Blake Edwards, starring Audrey Hepburn and George Peppard, with Mickey Rooney in a cameo role - it's probably best known for it's iconic images of Hepburn and for the Mancini classic, 'Moon River'. It is a beautiful piece of cinema developing the audiences relationship with New York alongside the development of the two central characters. Who doesn't want to stand outside Tiffany wearing their sunglasses and gazing through the window? One of my favourite scenes is where the pair go shoplifting (which I could never do) and wear the animal masks which take away their ability to convey anything to the camera through their faces. Hepburn is, as ever, immensely expressive in every way - even in such an instance. The film has a classic Hollywood ending, all swirling strings and kissing in the rain as the credits roll.

Recently I read the novella by Truman Capote, originally published in 1958 - it's interesting how the perspective of the narrator is so intensely focused in Capote's writing, yet the film is so much more from Holly's perspective - and follows her all the time. It's brilliantly written, but much darker than the film. The ending of the novella is more open, we don't really know what becomes of Holly and it seems that this was a frustration that Hollywood Executives couldn't cope with. The thing that surprised me really was that bar the actual characters and a few incidents, how incredibly different the storyline was to the way it is presented in the film.

My admiration for Audrey Hepburn herself was piqued when I was given Barry Paris' biography of her and discovered so much that I think it is easy to miss about an actor. It's so important to see the performance for what it is on screen, but also to consider how every part of the actor goes into making their performances richer and more complex, Hepburn truly lived and Paris provides a real window into her world, and although I'm not really a great biography reader, this really caught my interest. Paris discusses how Capote had originally wanted Marilyn Monroe to play Holly and I can see how in the novella, she is so much more 'Marilyn', but for the screen version - Hepburn created a role so iconic and so impeccably delivered that it will live on in our culture forever.

Maybe the best part of this original 'gift' was the fact that I am so far removed as an adult woman from Holly Golightly's character that we are polar opposites - she's like an alter-ego, she does the things I wish I could do if no one could ever find out. She is pure fiction and pure fantasy, an escape. Maybe that's why the short, consistently stoned DJ who claimed he'd dated Sophie Dahl liked her so much?

I don't care - I like her too.

1 comment:

Jessica said...

K, I loved both this novella and the movie. I was familiar with the movie long before I read the novella. And I, like you, was surprised at how much darker the novella was. Still, Holly Golightly jumps off of the page, and Audrey Hepburn will always be Holly to me. Congrats on finishing a Lit Flicks selection.