Breakfast at Tiffany's (Blake Edwards / U.S., 1961):

Manhattan at dawn is a single yellow cab in a glass desert, out steps Cinderella with paper-bag breakfast to see herself reflected amid the display diamonds, a crystalline statement of theme. Holly Golightly (Audrey Hepburn), née Lula Mae Barnes of Texas, absconded child bride and Hollywood agent's concoction, "very lovely, very frightened." In the city of rats and super-rats, the aspiring jet-setter stays afloat by flitting from one powder-room appointment to the next—a wispy call girl longing to snare the Brazilian millionaire and become, in Sartre's word, "respectueuse." An Upper East Side brownstone is her sanctuary, her confidant is the novelist (George Peppard) with a ritzy sugar momma (Patricia Neal) and no ribbon in his typewriter. The moddish "real phony" and the blocked gigolo, "we're after the same rainbow's end," as Mancini's hymn has it. Truman Capote by way of George Axelrod, the crossroads of Fifties and Sixties, party and hangover and romanticism and desperation lustrously distributed across the widescreen by Blake Edwards. The playground of identity and pretense, complete with masks, leads to a rain-soaked cat in the alley. (Mickey Rooney's disprized yellowface turn as a splenetic Japanese pornographer is integral to the purposeful artificiality.) The drifting tempo accelerates for a splendid cocktail soirée somewhere between Antonioni and Tati, with cigarette holder and pillbox bouffant and spilled drink figuring in a signature Edwards gag. Hepburn's Holly meanwhile bespeaks a long study of Ninotchka and The Philadelphia Story, a sham princess whose rebellion boils down to shoplifting at the thrift store. (As the ditched hillbilly husband, Buddy Ebsen has but two sighing words for her before pulling away in a Greyhound bus: "So skinny...") The ring in the Cracker Jack box and coded reports out of Sing Sing, "top banana in the shock department," all that plus John McGiver's droopy courtliness at the Tiffany's counter. "Would be good for some laughs." "I don't think so. This is a book that'd break the heart." The withering riposte is by Andy Warhol and Edie Sedgwick. Cinematography by Franz Planer. With Martin Balsam, José Luis de Vilallonga, and Alan Reed.

--- Fernando F. Croce

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