I've recently been trying to catch up on some of those early classics (saw Casablanca for the first time a couple of weeks ago and loved every second of it). There is something rather melancholy about these older movies, especially those made before I was born but which somehow seem to be as relevant today as they were when they were made. There's something very sad about seeing some of the Hollywood legends on prints polished to perfection on DVD, and realising that these screen legends, so alive when shown on a 50" plasma screen, are no longer with us.
Tonight I watched Breakfast at Tiffany's (Anniversary Edition) which I hadn't seen before. It's released on a new digitally restored 'Special Edition' DVD that's officially in the stores on Monday. The picture quality is as stunning as one would hope for, given the age of the movie, and, based on a novella by Truman Capote, it is a real treat, if you can suspend disbelief. Generally rom-coms are a genre that have totally passed me by: I watch a rom com that's had a high rating on imdb (over 7 out of 10 marks) or rave critical reviews in the press and find myself resenting the time wasted watching such drivel. So finding myself enjoying what many have called 'the original rom com' has come as a bit of a surprise.
It's the two leads, Audrey Hepburn and George Peppard, coupled with a strong director, that make the movie so enjoyable. This is all the more surprising since most critics of the time, and Audrey Hepburn herself, felt she was mis-cast in the role of Holly Golightly which was originally intended for Marilyn Monroe. Director Blake Edwards points out on the accompanying (very short) 'Making of' that he didn't want to cast George Peppard and still wouldn't cast him today (without telling us why, and whilst saying he liked him as a person) and I guess Peppard could be criticised for underplaying the role, but sometimes underplaying is sexier than overplaying and sexy is what's needed in a rom com. For me they both positively sizzled on screen, particularly Hepburn who goes from sexy designer clothes in one scene to a simple men's shirt (and not much else) in the next and oozes sex appeal every second that she's on screen. Peppard has the classic leading man good looks and one wonders if the scenes with him half-naked in bed were regarded as almost pornographic back in the 60's, given that they still look sexy and feel very modern today.
Mickey Roonie is the only real flaw in the movie - totally miscast as a charicature'd Japanese tenant who hams it up something chronic. He makes Peter Sellars as an Indian look like a really class act!
As with all rom coms the plot is a bit far-fetched and there's a lack of 'real world' believability about what happens, but when the movie's this much fun that hardly seems to matter. Only the very dodgy back-projection during a car conversation scene towards the end of the movie really betrayed the age of the movie for me. This is the film that gave us Moon River and amongst the trivia revealed over at imdb is the news that the 'Moon River' theme used throughout was not only written for the film, but also for Hepburn who was not a singer - hence its reliance on notes in a single octave.
Director Blake Edwards does a fantastic job too, with some neat visual flourishes throughout the movie. The cocktail party scene alone is worth the cost of admission, or rather the cost of the DVD. Yet again this is a reminder of what the success of DVD means for some of the old classics which can now be restored and shown in better format than would have been possible at time of original release in the majority of the theatres of the time (at least in terms of dust and scratches which affect even premiere showings of blockbusters that are made today). It's nice to see Paramount give this release the DVD transfer it deserves. If you want to see a 'feel good' classic, treat yourself to this one.