Roman Holiday (1953)


Directed by William Wyler
Written by Ian McLellan Hunter and John Dighton based on a story by Dalton Trumbo
(number 270)

What did I know going into this? That it’s a movie about Audrey Hepburn and it’s probably a romance. I was impressed to see it’s filmed entirely on location in Rome. In the opening sequence Audrey’s Princess Ann immediately won my heart by stretching out her feet during a formal occasion by slipping a foot out of a high heel one at a time under her huge hoop skirt. It was adorable and hilarious. Reminded me a little of the Princess Diaries … I’m sure there’s a conscious homage there.

Two Disney movies owe quite a bit to this: Enchanted was the first one which sprang to mind – especially the wandering through the town, not really understanding how things work and giving away/using the money the man has given her. And then I thought it was a bit like the city sequence in Tangled as well.

Ann getting a haircut was very familiar ‘are you sure you want it all off?’ and then a super adorable haircut at the end of it. Damn you Audrey with your fey good looks and excellent costume department dressing you.

It’s like a lovely tour of Rome in black and white, framed with a bit of story and romance. It was especially good because Anna kept being like “I’ve been there!” which is a nice counterpoint. To me it’s all foreign and only read of in novels. (Alex in Rome by Tessa Duder in particular…). It hits all the tourist stuff which is still popular to this day – I imagine there was a quite a boost in tourists to Rome after this screened in America. It certainly made me want to ride a vespa and eat gelato.

Does it make me love the people? Princess Ann immediately, she is most excellent. It’s hard not to love Audrey after all, and when she’s playing a character who just keeps on being delighted it’s impossible not to love her.

Bechdel test: Yes, and nice and early too. Ann and Countess Vereberg discuss what she wears, what Ann will be doing the next day and why Ann shouldn’t stand near the window without her slippers on.

Princess Ann: I hate this nightgown. I hate all my nightgowns, and I hate all my underwear too.
Countess: My dear, you have lovely things.
Princess Ann: But I’m not two hundred years old. Why can’t I sleep in pajamas?
Countess: Pajamas?
Princess Ann: Just the top part. Did you know that there are people who sleep with absolutely nothing on at all?
Countess: I rejoice to say I do not.

Best line:

Joe Bradley: Now, come on. You’re not that drunk.
Princess Ann: [laughing] If you’re so smart I’m not drunk at all. I’m just being
[her head falls against his chest]
Princess Ann: verrrrry haaaappy…

State of Mind: Aaaaaww, this is lovely. Once again proving my theory that movies about women/movies which are romantic comedies only have value if they’re past a certain age, though. If you remade it now it would be dismissed as a ‘chick flick’ but because it’s from the fifties and stars icon Audrey it’s acceptable to say this is a great classic. I did enjoy it very much and I can see myself watching it again for sure. It’s a bit more accessible than Funny Face. Although the ending is rather sad. I had hoped for something else… heh. Anna liked it and expected the ending, because she’d made the connection with the film’s title and is smart. The photo given to the princess right at the end of her smashing a guitar over someone’s head is a highlight for both of us.

Watched movie count

Funny Face (1957)

Funny Face
Directed by Stanley Donen
Written by Leonard Gershe
(number 329)

I knew that this was basically a rom-com starring Audrey Hepburn but I didn’t really know another thing about it. Imagine my pleasure when the movie started and it appeared to be the 1957 version of The Devil Wears Prada, set in a fashion magazine headed by a formidible lady. I watched this with Will and Anna.

They’re having some trouble with a shoot and so go on location to a bookshop where works the stunning Ms Hepburn as intellectual book store worker Jo Stockton. Talk about your meet cute, Fred Astaire’s photographer shoves a rolling ladder along the shelves which she is standing on – dressed in brown and blending into the background.

Also it’s a musical, did I mention that already? Because it is and there are not just songs but also extended dance numbers. The best of which being the weird ass Jo expressing herself in modern dance bit in the Parisian Bohemian bar. This is after she’s basically told Dick that he’s a caveman, because women shouldn’t have to wait for men to ask them to dance, if they want to dance they can ask a man or just do it. They’re not restricted by boring old social norms.

Jo is reluctant to be a model although she is spotted by the talent scout/agent. She’s much more concerned with being intellectual, and her goals in Paris are to attend lectures and talk to the bohemians about philosophy.

The sequence where Audrey runs from the fashion ladies to escape a forcible makeover was quite wonderful. She runs into Dick the photog again and he convinces her that despite her claim that she’s got a funny looking face, or possibly because of it, she would make a great model.

It’s an important trope of musicals from this sort of era that the leading lady be smitten with the leading man, even when he has been somewhat tasteless or gauche with her. Mostly I was distracted by Dick’s blue socks with slip on shoes… but as Will pointed out he was more or less insulting her when he collected her from the bohemian club. He makes it up to her with an elaborate ‘let’s kiss and make up’ song below her hotel window.

I realised part way through that this is the movie that Chris takes Lorelei to watch on the side of a barn in The Gilmore Girls. I kind of hate Chris and that ship but I didn’t let it affect my enjoyment of the film. It’s charming.

Does it make me love the people? Oh yes. Not just because Jo reminded me quite a lot of my dear friend Celeste. Fred Astaire’s really the one with the funny face, in my opinion, but he’s pretty sweet too. His character isn’t particularly interesting or different to regular male leads of the time but then he does exactly what he’s supposed to – he’s a charming foil for Audrey to shine against. The story is entirely about her and the movie doesn’t pretend anything else.

Much like in Singin’ in the Rain there’s a long extended dance number with Dick and Miss Prescott pretending to be Bohemian to get in to see Jo. They lost me during this number to be honest.

Bechdel test: Yes, almost immediately and then again and again. Marion speaks to Miss Prescott, Miss Prescott talks to Jo, and they talk many times over the course of the movie. It’s very satisfying to watch an old movie which is so forward thinking … well, I guess the story isn’t necessarily but the politics are in there anyways. Plus yay, named women who speak to each other.

and look at how wonderful this song and dance is…

although it did rather remind me of this clip…

Best line:
Random bohemian: I feel a hostile vibration
Dick Avery: That’d be me.

Dick: You are mad aren’t you?
Jo: No, I’m not mad. I’m hurt, and … disappointed and.. mad!

State of Mind: The movie was a lot better at the start than the end. The late – end of the film kind of… lost my interest. Maybe it’s just because there was (people are watching me type this and it’s putting me off) maybe it’s just because there was interesting Winter Soldier stuff on pinterest I dunno, but the first half of the movie is much more fun than the last part.

Will live blogged it: part 1, part 2, part 3

Watched movie count

Breakfast at Tiffany’s (1961)

Breakfast at Tiffany’s
Directed by Blake Edwards
Written by George Axelrod based on the novel by Truman Capote
(number 485)

I would really enjoy this movie so much more if it wasn’t for Mickey Rooney playing the grumpy Japanese landlord Mr Yunioshi. This blatant racist stereotype is jarring in an otherwise rather sweet film.

I sat down to watch it fully intending to hate it. I remember the last time I tried to watch it I thought it was boring and weird, I couldn’t understand why stealing things made a good date. However my tastes have changed and evolved and I found myself enjoying it this time through.

It’s a classic because of Audrey Hepburn playing a wonderfully whimsical gold digger Holly Golightly, a character who was already famous from the Truman Capote novel. The eponymous breakfast at Tiffany’s happens during the opening credits where it’s actually rather nice to see a classic film goddess eating a pastry and drinking coffee from a to go cup like a modern hipster.

There’s a lot of familiar tropes, the movie which inspired some other films such as Priceless, Love and Other Disasters, Moulin Rouge and many more films about girls who are setting their sites high in order to make a living and somehow ignoring the charming everyman who has fallen in love with them.

I understand that in the book Paul is gay, but in the movie he is most definitely straight, a ‘kept man’ for an older woman who has splashed out and is paying his rent. Paul is very uneasy with this situation and doesn’t like when it’s brought up, although Holly tries to bond with him over it.

Is Holly the original manic pixie dream girl? I don’t think so. The story is too much about her arc, her personal tribulations and what she learns for that. She doesn’t seem to teach Paul anything – although she does encourage his whimsy, but given he’s a writer I’d say there’s a lot of whimsy there to start with. Holly to me is a more three dimensional character than the traditional MPDG is – she looks like one though, because she is trying so hard to project the image of a fun, carefree girl. Plus we mostly see her through Paul’s eyes so there’s that.

Also kudos for the cat actor who plays Cat – there was some brilliant acting from that feline and I went ‘awwww’ out loud when they show him all bedraggled in the rain.

Does it make me love the people? It did actually, I felt a sort of begrudging affection for Paul, who I feel behaves well at the start and then gets more and more disagreeable as he tries to control Holly with his feelings for her.

It’s very hard not to love Holly, especially when you get the awkward – previously married – backstory and the concern she has for her slow witted brother. I feel that unlike a lot of other women characters in movies she shows a deep range of emotions too, when she gets upset she screams or cries, pushes people away and is unable to speak. Audrey did a wonderful, realistic job with the vulnerability of the character and I think that’s what makes this movie enduring. Well, that and the costume design of course.

Bechdel test: No, Holly talks to Mag Wildwood but it’s about Rusty – the wealthy bachelor Mag brought along who Holly has her eye on landing.

Best line:

Paul: I love you.
Holly: So what.
Paul: So what? So plenty! I love you, you belong to me!
Holly: [tearfully] No. People don’t belong to people.
Paul: Of course they do!
Holly: I’ll never let ANYBODY put me in a cage.
Paul: I don’t want to put you in a cage, I want to love you!
Holly: Same thing.

State of Mind: Priceless is a better movie…BUT I enjoyed this more than I thought I would. It’s pretty good fun and I maybe got a bit choked up at the end. Maybe. Poor old Cat.

Watched movie count

Interesting things you may not know about Breakfast at Tiffany’s