Blu-ray review: Breakfast at Tiffany’s

In Blu-Ray’s by Rebecca WrightLeave a Comment

As Blu-ray becomes an increasingly popular format, the major studios have really begun to see that the true classics of cinema make their way to high-def. I for one couldn’t be happier. One of Paramount’s latest classics to make a stunning Blu-ray debut is Breakfast at Tiffany’s. Nominated for five Academy Awards, including Audrey Hepburn for Best Actress, Breakfast at Tiffany’s took home two statues: Best Original Song for “Moon River” went to Henry Mancini and Johnny Mercer and Best Score of a Dramatic or Comedy Picture saw Mancini win again

Breakfast at Tiffany'sLoosely based on the Truman Capote novella of the same name, 1961’s Breakfast at Tiffany’s remains one of Audrey Hepburn’s portrayal of Holly Golightly remains one of the most iconic characters in movie history. Though Audrey always said that Breakfast at Tiffany’s was one of the best experiences of her professional career, she also admitted it was one of the hardest. Naturally an introvert, it was difficult for Audrey to step into the shoes of the extroverted Holly.

Holly is a carefree girl who seems to relish the party lifestyle she’s created for herself. While it’s obvious from that start that Holly is an escort, that fact is never mentioned. While I’m sure the oversight had a lot to do with 1960’s sensibilities, Hepburn plays Holly with such a vulnerable sweetness, making it possible for audiences then and now, to not fully acknowledge her profession. We soon find out the reason for the vulnerability: she not really the glamorous sophisticate she pretends to be, but rather a small-town girl from Tulip, Texas, who has gone to the big city of New York to find herself. She ends up accepting money from men for “going to the powder room.” When she gets a case of the “mean reds”–that is, she gets really depressed–she heads off to do some browsing a Tiffany’s. After all, as Holly says, ” nothing very bad could happen to you there.”

Holly meets a new neighbor in her apartment building, Paul Varjak (George Peppard), a would-be writer being “kept” by a wealthy older woman who Paul nicknames “2E” (Patricia Neal). The two immediately feel a connection and the film chronicles their up and down relationship.

Essentially, Breakfast at Tiffany’s is the story of a female escort and a male gigolo falling in love. However, because of the changes that screenwriter George Axelrod (Bus Stop, The Manchurian Candidate, 1962) made to the Truman Capote novella and the seemingly genuine romanticism both leads brought to the story, few would describe Breakfast at Tiffany’s in that way.

Aside from Hepburn, Peppard and Neal, Breakfast at Tiffany’s is blessed with a marvelous supporting cast. Buddy Ebsen plays Holly’s former husband, a patient but not-too-understanding veterinarian from back home in Tulip. Martin Balsam is a fast-talking Hollywood agent who’s trying to get Holly into movies. Jose-Luis de Villalonga is a Brazilian millionaire Holly tries to marry. And Alan Reed is mob boss, Sally Tomato, whom Holly visits on a weekly basis in Sing Sing Prison to get the ‘weather report’.

The only sore spot in the whole film is Mickey Rooney’s portrayal of Mr. Yunioshi, the landlord of Holly’s building. The character is a racially stereotyped Japanese-American. While that portrayal may have struck audiences as humorous back in the 1960’s, today, every minute he’s on screen is cringe-inducing today. Rooney himself says, if he’d known people would have been so offended, “I wouldn’t have done it.”

Fifty years after its theatrical release, there’s still something tremendously appealing about Breakfast at Tiffany’s. Sure the characters smoke and drank like there’s no tomorrow; but even so, there’s an innocence about it all that has been lost in the intervening years. While I’m glad we now know about the dangers of excessive drinking and smoking, there’s something comforting about watching a movie like Breakfast at Tiffany’s; it’s a glimpse of days gone by.

Presented in its original aspect ratio of 1.85:1, this 1080p transfer is beautiful. If you have the Centennial DVD that Paramount released back in 2009, expect that to gather dust, because this one is head and should above it. Colors are bold and vibrant. Blacks are inky. Audrey’s little black dress has never looked better than it does here. Detail is excellent as well. I could see the individual furs of Cat, and spot the different textures of Hepburn’s many beautiful outfits. If I had one small complaint, it would be that on occasion, the faces look a bit waxy. Other than that, this is a stellar effort.

The DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 does a great job. Henry Mancini’s score sounds better than it ever has, with great use of the surrounds. Dialogue is audible and crisp throughout, and while there isn’t a magnificent aggression in terms of sound design here, this lossless surround mix serves the film well. While not true to the film’s original design, the movie sounds wonderful on Blu-ray.

English, French, Spanish and Portuguese Dolby Digital 2.0 tracks are included, as are English, English SDH, French, Spanish and Portuguese subtitles.

We get the following special features:

  • Audio Commentary by Producer Richard Shepherd: While his remarks are quite dry, and you might have trouble staying engaged, he clearly enjoyed being part of the film and shares a few interesting facts.
  • A Golightly Gathering (20:00) (HD) This segment finds many of the actors from the movie’s cocktail scene reunite to reminisce.
  • Henry Mancini: More Than Music (21:00) (HD) A 2008 piece on the composer, and his life in the industry.
  • Mr. Yunioshi: An Asian Perspective (17:00) (HD) Various Asian filmmakers comment on Mickey Rooney’s atrocious Japanese stereotype and on the role of Asian actors and filmmakers in Hollywood through the years.
  • The Making of a Classic (16:00) (SD) An examination of the adaptation of the Capote story for the screen.
  •  It’s So Audrey: A Style Icon (8:00) (SD) A look at Ms. Hepburn’s delicately simple style.
  • Behind the Gates: The Tour (4:00) (SD) A quick tour of Paramount Studios.
  • Brilliance in a Blue Box (6:00) (SD) The history of the famous jewelry store.
  • Audrey’s Letter to Tiffany (2:00) (SD) A piece on a letter Hepburn wrote to preface a book about the Tiffany store.
  • Galleries (SD) Galleries of production, movie, and publicity stills.
  • Theatrical Trailer (HD)