Thursday, February 15, 2007

Moon River

We had not planned to watch Breakfast At Tiffany's (1961) for our Saint Valentine's Day movie night. But when the song "Moon River" started playing on TCM, it was hard not to get caught up in the film. The opening scene has got to be one of the most haunting in film history, with Audrey Hepburn strolling down a Manhattan street at five o'clock in the morning, glamorously attired, a paper cup of coffee in hand, nibbling a pastry, while pausing to gaze longingly into the window of Tiffany's jewelry store. Never has anyone looked so lost.

Made at the dawn of the sexual revolution, the film captures the angst of modern life, with the all the loneliness, the frantic striving for wealth at any price, seeking in material pleasures a happiness which remains elusive. The "Holly Golightly" character, nimbly portrayed by Miss Hepburn, embodies the lifestyle of so many contemporary young women, sans the Givenchy gowns, in whose lives there have often been many lovers but very little true love. The George Peppard character, "Paul" the writer-gigolo, was shocking at the time the film debuted. He, too, like so many modern people, knows a lot about sex but nothing of love. He longs for love, nevertheless. Paul, like Holly, is trapped in a lifestyle from which there seems to be no escape. Hope is presented in the awakening of love, and the desire for commitment, from which Holly flees like a bird.

The film would be nothing without the Henry Mancini song "Moon River," written for Audrey's limited vocal range. Although the words speak of a youthful desire to see the world, when Audrey sings it, she captures a deeper level of meaning, an intense yearning for home, for a family setting that is no more. It is essentially a mourning of lost innocence. Holly had lost her innocence by age fourteen, when she married a man old enough to be her father; instead of being a much-needed parent, he became a lover, and perhaps that is what set her on the path to promiscuity. Underneath her carefree exterior, she is tormented at the very core of her being, as is demonstrated when she smashes up her apartment upon receiving the news that her only brother has died.

When hearing the song "Moon River" as a child, I always thought of the Monocacy River, not far from our house. It was a yellow muddy river due to the cow manure and silt from the fields, but on a summer night, beneath the glimmering of the moon, it became beautifully surreal, connoting the magic and mystery of places far away. How often the youthful longing to see the world is replaced with the nostalgia for home, after the world has been seen and tasted. There is no going back home, only going forward, while creating structures of stability for the new generation. Paul and Holly standing in the rain at the end of Breakfast at Tiffany's, hugging a soggy cat, while a choir sings "Moon River" in the background, is almost like a gleam of promise. Amid the despair, depravity and chaos of modernity, a man and woman can still find each other, commit to each other, and build a life of meaning for themselves and for others.


Anonymous said...

Very well reviewed. The movie and the story, Truman Capote, are based on real people. Capote lived in the same brownstone with Dorian Leigh, the fantastic model, who reigned supreme on fashion magazine covers during the late forties and early to mid forties; when her sister Suzy Parker took over.

Dorian Leigh was Revlon's Fire and Ice girl and was one of the prettiest models of all time. She went to Europe for a shoot and stayed acquiring many admirers one of them being the great bullfighter, Domingo.

She later wrote her biography which is quite interesting and later became a Christian owning a good restaurant in New England or up-state New York. I must read the book again.

When I first saw the movie, I was about 20 or 21. It just sort of fit into the New York scene at the time, however when I read the biography of Leigh's it took on an even different meaning.

elena maria vidal said...

Thank you very much, Miss Sally. That is very interesting and little known background about this film.

Anonymous said...

Yes, yes, yes, a truly iconic film, and your review expressed it so perfectly. Even my son, who is a fan of Martin Scorcese films, watched it again when it was on TCM this week. It cuts to the heart without the tawdriness and violence that eventually took over screendom. The film made Audrey Hepburn a star, yet many felt she was miscast. After reading Miss Sally's enlightening comments I see how perfectly she fit the role.

Anonymous said...

There is a film that just came out called "Factory Girl" about Edie
Sedgwick, a dropout from Radcliffe in 1965 who heads to New York to become
Holly Golightly. There she meets Andy Warhol.Is this the person Sally is talking about?