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HTF DVD REVIEW: Breakfast at Tiffany's: Centennial Collection



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#1 of 2 Matt Hough

Matt Hough

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Posted December 30 2008 - 03:34 PM

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Breakfast at Tiffany’s: Centennial Collection
Directed by Blake Edwards

Studio: Paramount
Year: 1961
Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1 anamorphic
Running Time: 114 minutes
Rating: NR
Audio: Dolby Digital 5.1 English; 2.0 mono English, French, Spanish
Subtitles: English, French, Spanish
MSRP: $ 24.99

Release Date: January 13, 2009
Review Date: December 30, 2008


The Film

4.5/5

One of the grandest romantic comedies ever made, Blake Edwards’ Breakfast at Tiffany’s is a smart, sophisticated trifle. Filled to the brim with one-of-a-kind characters, directed with an ease that’s remarkably free and bubbly, and acted by a terrific cadre of top stars and character actors, Breakfast at Tiffany’s is a joy, easily one of the most likeable and ingratiating movies of all time.

Manhattan party girl Holly Golightly (Audrey Hepburn) meets one-time writer and now kept man Paul Varjak (George Peppard), and there’s an instant connection: two intrinsically lonely but lively souls living off others but sparking to their instant rapport and easy camaraderie. Though not initially romantically involved (though he seems to fall for her on the spot of their meet-cute), the duo share a string of adventures together including visits to Sing-Sing, a ribald cocktail party, getting drunk in a strip club, shoplifting Halloween masks, visiting the New York Public Library and Tiffany’s, and inevitably being arrested. It’s not all fun and games, though, since Holly needs money so she can care for her brother Fred when he leaves the service and attempts to bed and wed a succession of wealthy playboys. Paul has problems of his own with "2-E
George Axelrod’s script has taken some of the events from Truman Capote’s novella and combined them into a series of sequences which talented director Blake Edwards has put his indelibly chic stamp on. There has never been a cocktail party sequence like the one in this film: it’s filled with incidents both hilarious and interesting, and the excursion around the five and dime to find something to swipe is played as if two gangsters were looking for some big score to make, all for the sake of fun. Capote’s short work was not a romance; the Peppard character has been given an amorous slant to his persona to add an extra dimension to the story, and it works to perfection as their mutual attraction for one another is palpable but with obstacles which the audience constantly wants to see eliminated, as they are one by one leading to one of cinema‘s most sentimental but memorably satisfying endings. And the entire erudite concoction is enlivened by the sensational score of Henry Mancini filled with smart, sly compositions that compliment every scene with exactly the mood that sets it perfectly. It’s little wonder that the two Oscars won by the film both involved Mancini’s contributions to the movie: his original score and the song “Moon River,” the intoxicating lullaby for dreamers and drifters everywhere.

Though she wasn’t author Truman Capote’s choice for Holly (he wanted Marilyn Monroe), Audrey Hepburn’s performance is quite possibly her most well-known portrayal. Her free-spirited Holly, who bolts against structure and possessiveness, is a misty-eyed marvel, and the actress has never been more adorable or desirable. George Peppard is a solid, sincere leading man, and the journey the two characters take is made more accessible through his steadfastness in the shadow of her flightiness. Patricia Neal is the hardened woman of the world balancing husband and gigolo with aplomb while Buddy Ebsen as Holly’s long ago and far away husband Doc Golightly brings the first of the film’s many poignant moments to the fore with an excellent, unforced portrayal. Much has been said negatively of Mickey Rooney’s politically incorrect performance as Mr. Yunioshi, Holly’s perpetually complaining upstairs neighbor. Aside from questions of taste, it’s an overacted, stereotypical performance, the one sourball in a dish of sweets. Other memorable character actors like John McGiver, Elvia Allman, and Martin Balsam make pitch-perfect appearances in small but significant moments.

Breakfast at Tiffany’s is a jewel that’s worthy of its namesake, a stylish, sophisticated entertainment that glimmers with the best the cinema has to offer.


Video Quality

3.5/5

The film has been framed at 1.78:1 and has been enhanced for widescreen televisions. Though color saturation levels are acceptable and sharpness is excellent, there is a slight green tint used in the color timing (also used on the 2006 remastered DVD transfer) that robs the image of sparkle and brilliance. It’s just a bit drab despite being much cleaner and better contrasted than the original DVD issue of the movie. From direct A/B comparisons, I’ve surmised that the 2006 DVD edition of the film is identical to this new disc. I saw no differences whatsoever in any of the scenes I matched up. The film has been divided into 14 chapters.

Audio Quality

3.5/5

The disc offers two English alternatives: the restored mono recording (much preferred) and a Dolby Digital 5.1 audio mix. Though it’s great hearing the brilliant Mancini background score piped through the surrounds with such surety, it is sometimes too overpowering for the dialog in the center channel which throws the entire mix way off balance.


Special Features

3.5/5

Producer Richard Shepherd’s audio commentary has been ported over from previous releases of the film. It’s a start-and-stop, low-key affair with his memory not always reliable about certain events which happened during filming and occasionally even making outright mistakes (saying “Moon River” was the first time Audrey had sung on film.) He makes no bones about not liking Mickey Rooney’s participation in the movie but otherwise seems pleased with the film’s legend and popularity.

All of the new bonus featurettes are presented in 480p.

“A Golightly Gathering” brings together six actors who participated in the famous cocktail party sequence to share their memories of the eight days it took to film that scene including working with the stars and “Orangey” the cat, Blake Edwards’ directorial techniques, and what they thought of the finished product. This feature runs 20 ½ minutes.

“Henry Mancini: More Than Music” is a 21-minute tribute to the man and his music by his wife Ginny and his children Chris and Monica. It’s more of a remembrance of the man as a person rather than a catalog of his multiple achievements in film, television, records, and the stage.

“Mr. Yunioshi: An Asian Perspective” finds several members of the Asian community commenting on the treatment of Asians not only in this film but during the entire history of Hollywood up to the time of Breakfast at Tiffany’s. The featurette lasts 17 ½ minutes.

All of the bonus features from the 2006 DVD release of the film have been ported over to this new disc. Apart from the theatrical trailer which is in anamorphic widescreen, the following features are in 4:3 480i.

“The Making of a Classic” brings together several surviving members of the cast and crew to talk about the making of the film. It lasts 16 ½ minutes. What’s interesting to note is that even though this feature uses full frame clips from the film, the color values are beautifully rich and deeply saturated, more what the remastered transfer ideally should have looked like.

“It’s So Audrey: A Style Icon” is an 8 ¼-minute tribute to fashion icon Audrey Hepburn with her son Sean and her companion Robert Wolders among others commenting on her sense of style, her own opinion of her own features, and her unique relationship with Givenchy.

“Behind the Gates: The Tour” is a throwaway 4 ¼ minutes with the briefest of tours of the Paramount lot including some standing sets and several of the more memorable soundstages.

“Brilliance in a Blue Box” is the 6-minute tribute to Tiffany and Company with a mini-history of the company which was begun in 1837.

“Audrey’s Letter to Tiffany” features the 1987 letter written to Tiffany’s to preface the publication of the book on its 150th Anniversary.

The original theatrical trailer is in pretty ragged shape, but it is anamorphically presented and runs 2 ½ minutes.

There are three step-through galleries: movie stills in black and white and color, behind the scenes production shots, and posed publicity shots.

The package includes an 8-page booklet with some behind the scenes trivia and some lovely color movie stills.


In Conclusion

4/5 (not an average)

Gloriously funny and tenderly romantic, Breakfast at Tiffany’s is a movie that offers just about everything one could want in a romantic comedy. Though the Centennial Collection isn’t the last word in a quality presentation for this fine film, it’s an above average addition to the studio’s on-going series of classics from their vaults and is recommended for those who don‘t already own the previous edition.


Matt Hough
Charlotte, NC

#2 of 2 Chris S

Chris S

    Screenwriter

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Posted December 30 2008 - 05:16 PM

Quote:
Originally Posted by MattH.
From direct A/B comparisons, I’ve surmised that the 2006 DVD edition of the film is identical to this new disc. I saw no differences whatsoever in any of the scenes I matched up.


Thanks for the review! This is just the information that I was most interested in hearing about. For now I think I'll stick with my 2006 edition and hope for the Blu-ray release later on down the road.
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