BREAKFAST AT TIFFANY’S and FOOTLOOSE Blu-ray Reviews

     November 18, 2011

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Breakfast at Tiffany’s and Footloose share one thing in common: iconic imagery of their leads. Who can forget Audrey Hepburn in the black dress with her obscenely long cigarette holder, and who can forget Kevin Bacon getting so frustrated he heads to a factory to dance out his frustrations?  Cinema has that power, to crystalize a moment, to create a look that comes to represent a time and a place. Our reviews of Breakfast at Tiffany’s and Footloose on Blu-ray follow after the jump.

kevin-bacon-footloose-imageWhat’s interesting about Herbert Ross’s Footloose is that it’s not really a musical. It would seem like one, and dancing is one of the central concerns of the characters, but though the film is punctuated by music and dance numbers, it doesn’t really jump the hurdle of what the textbook definition of a “musical” is. Perhaps that’s unfair, but it’s mostly about fitting in, and the standard troubles of a youth. But the film is driven by its music, so there’s that.

The big invention of the film is that Kevin Bacon’s Ren McCormack isn’t trying to integrate himself into the big city (as would be the more standard narrative device), but he and his mother move to a small town and find the locals are reluctant to accept him. The film starts in church with Reverend Shaw Moore (John Lithgow) preaching to the town, and the film cuts to children bored, and people sitting dutifully. Ren beings to meet the people, and finds himself alienated by reading books that some townsfolk want to ban. The Reverend’s daughter Ariel (Lori Singer) is a real hell-raiser, and she and her boyfriend almost get into an accident when she straddles two cars as a truck approaches. She’s also the person who introduces pop music to the local hamburger joint, which gets everyone dancing until her father shows up to give her money.

At school, Ren doesn’t fit in with the rest of the small town, though he makes friends with Williard (Chris Penn), and there’s an obvious attraction for Ariel. But regardless, there are bullies and the cops pull him over for playing music and being new to town -Ren’s persecuted. He gets a job, but finds that the town remains cold, which is made worse when Ariel keeps pursuing him. He loves dancing, so he takes Willard and Ariel and her friend Rusty (Sarah Jessica Parker) to a honkytonk bar. Which then leads him to want to have a school dance.

footloose-blu-ray-imageFootloose is more of a portrait of small town life than a film about the joys of dancing, and for that it works as director Ross – working from Dean Pitchfort’s screenplay – does the smart thing in turning the reverend into a real character. He preaches, and believes he’s doing the right thing, but he’s not a tool or caricature. Lithgow imbues the dad with real emotions, and it saves the film from being another in a long line of easily dismissable bad guys. Footloose is a time capsule of a culture pre-internet (and for these people Pre-MTV) where the outside world is just that. It works on those own terms, but it’s a very modest movie.

Released in conjunction with the upcoming remake, the film is presented in widescreen (1.78:1) and in 6.1 DTS-HD master audio. The transfer is great, and the soundtrack comes alive when music is played (which is frequently). Extras include a commentary by producer Craig Zadan and writer Dean Pitchford, and second track with Kevin Bacon. There’s also new supplements for this release, which starts with “Let’s Dance: Kevin Bacon on Footloose” (12 min.), and “From Bomont to The Big Apple: An Interview with Sarah Jessica Parker” (8 min.). Both are forthcoming about what this project meant to their careers, and the process they went through to get it. “Remembering Willard” (6 min.) is a tribute to Chris Penn, while “Kevin Bacon’s Screen Test” (5 min.) and “Costume Montage” (3 min.) show how he got the part, and the work that went into making him look right. Also included are the DVD supplements from the last special edition, which include a making of (30 min.), with comments from Bacon and many of the stars (like John Lithgow), “Songs that Tell a Story” (14 min.) with interviews with Kenny Loggins and others. For those who weren’t there, the film was boosted by MTV, which turned the majority of the film’s songs into top ten hits. The film’s theatrical trailer is also included.

breakfast-at-tiffanys-blu-ray-image-2Breakfast at Tiffany’s is one of the last films produced by Hollywood that has an asterisk attached to its classic status. The early days of cinema were replete with painful racial stereotypes, but so many of those are at least a little more forgivable because of the times. When you watch Breakfast at Tiffany’s, it’s a very modern comedy, except for one painful element: Mickey Rooney’s downstairs neighbor. Rooney plays as an embarrassing exaggeration of Japanese stereotypes. It was made in 1961, and that sort of caricature would seem something of a bygone era. Rooney aside, the film is a smooth romantic comedy from the unlikeliest of sources – Truman Capote. As Seinfeld tells us, they didn’t film his book.

Audrey Hepburn stars as Holly Golightly a young socialite who makes her money by getting $50 to powder her nose. She meets Paul Varjak (George Peppard), a young writer who moves into her building. Paul may blanche at Holly’s business arrangements, but he’s a kept man, who gets visits and is taken care of by his sugar mom 2-E (Patricia Neal).

breakfast-at-tiffanys-movie-image-1The highlight of the film is the party Holly throws, which shows the assortment of weirdoes and phonies she calls friends. If director Blake Edwards ever had a signature sequence, this is it and the comic invention is perfect as he sets up a Rube Goldberg machine of a sequence that ends with a woman getting her hat set on fire. Holly’s revealed to be a runaway child bride, and that’s partly why she longs for the moneyed things. But Paul falls for her, and that’s that. Martin Baslam is in it, and he’s great as the Hollywood guy O.J. Berman who asks the most pertinent question: is Holly a real phony? It’s one of the great moments in the film, as it brings up a question that is relevant to this day (think hipsters): is it an act, or does it become real after a while? Is the mask the true person after a certain point?

The romantic stuff works, and the film is funny, but it’s hard to ignore the dated (read: racist) elements – which is something that makes Blake Edwards’s later The Party also suffer in modern eyes. Regardless, this is Hepburn’s signature performance, and she nails it. When people think of Hepburn, this is that role.

breakfast-at-tiffanys-blu-ray-coverParamount’s Blu-ray presents the film in widescreen (1.78:1) and in 5.1 DTS-HD master audio and a restored mono track. The problem with films of this age is that channel separation is pronounced, and dialogue often sounds a little wonky in surround – it makes everything sound dubbed. The film comes with a commentary by producer Richard Shepherd, and it’s okay, but he can’t fill the track by himself, and so it goes cold now and then. There are new-ish extras, including “A Golightly Gathering” (20 min.) which gets the living cast from the party scene together to talk about making the film, “Henry Mancini: More than Music” (21 min.) which gives the composer his due, and “Fantastic

Mr. Yunioshi: An Asian Perspective” (17 min.) which lets Asian actors and historians talk about the film and the roles of Asians in cinema in general. Older supplements include “The Making of a Classic” (16 min.), “It’s So Audrey! A Style Icon” (8 min.) both of which walk through the film and its lasting appeal. “Behind the Gates: The Tour” (4 min.). gives a brief glimpse at Paramount Studios, while “Brilliance in a Blue Box” (6 min.) goes behind Tiffany’s, which ties into “Audrey’s Letter to Tiffany” (2 min), which relates a letter from the star of the film to the company that helped make her. The disc also comes with three still galleries, and a theatrical trailer.

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