September 15th, 2007

Jin Shei Cover from sgreer

"Breakfast at Tiffany's"

TiVo taped the movie for us almost six months ago, and there it sat, waiting, waiting, waiting - there were always other things on, more important things to watch, more current things to keep up with, there's a new "House" or a new "Lost" or a new show we hadn't seen before but had heard good things about and wanted to give a try to - and there the Cinderella movie sat, waiting its turn.

We looked at the Now Playing list tonight, and rdeck said, "You know, I don't think I've ever actually seen that movie."

I have, of course. Many times. The final scene has always reduced me to tears.

So we settled in to watch "Breakfast at Tiffany's".

I have never read the original Capote story, so I have no idea how accurate or faithful the movie is. I do know that Capote himself is on the record as having hated the movie with a passion, having considered it woefully miscast; I don't know if he had other reservations, but being a writer I would think that any movie "based on" a work of mine would be assessed a lot more critically than any other arbitrary flick I may watch. It's inevitable.

So, Capote's cavils aside... well.. I've always loved this film. On the surface it's wacky as all get-go - especially when, in the midst of a truly bizarre party where someone wears a wristwatch on her ankle, a woman's hat gets set on fire by a long cigarette holder (and nobody notices for a full minute), and people whom the hostess doesn't even know turn up because "word gets out", a visiting Brazilian expresses his delight in being able to be inside a "typical American home" observing "typical American culture". But underneath it all - Paul Varjack the writer pens one of the saddest opening lines to a story, ever - about a frightened girl who lives in the downstairs apartment, who "lived alone except for a nameless cat". There's a sense of a fragility of life and sanity, of a frailty, of the thinness of the veneers we present to the outside world and by which we are judged. There's a poignancy to it, one perhaps encapsulated by the snotty employee at high-class Tiffany's store on Fifth Avenue New York who gets presented with a Cracker Jack ring and asked to engrave it - instead of flying into a righteous rage and calling security to evict these two idiots who are wasting his time, the man gets a funny little look on his face as he turns the offending object between his fingers and asks if they really still have prizes in Cracker Jack boxes, and how nice it is that they do, that it gives you a feeling of... continuity, of solidarity with the past, a link to your culture and your history and all the things that went on before and will go on after, that while people meet, part, marry, divorce, have children, rush to work, gabble on the phone to business partners, take kids to piano or ballet or soccer or basketball, make dinner or duck out for pizza or Chinesse, all these building blocks of everyday life... it's all grounded in the fact that there are still prizes to be found in Cracker Jack boxes.

And, of course, I howled again at the final scene, the one with the cat in the rain. If you haven't seen the movie, I won't say any more because you really have to see this. If you have seen the movie, then I don't need to say anything else.

I don't know about the original story, but I love this movie, sentimental fool that I am.

It makes me feel good to believe that Cracker Jack boxes can still hold treasure.