I am a book aficionado, and therefore I tend to avoid seeing movies which are based on books. Actually, as you probably already know I tend not to watch TV much at all, and I don’t like having my own imagination curbed by what is shown on the screen. I tend not to like books which have a picture from the film as a cover, although Breakfast At Tiffany’s strangely didn’t trouble me – partly because I had never seen the film and partly because the character of Holly Golightly in the book was so unlike Audrey Hepburn to me that I had to paint her differently.
We discussed this book in our reading group last night and we were polarised. Many of my fellow book group members found the stories depressing and unpleasant, dealing with unsavoury topics such as prostitution and under-age marriage. Oddly, I had viewed the main story as well as the three other stories in the book – House of Flowers, A Diamond Guitar and A Christmas Memory – as being quite uplifting. I adored Holly’s abandon and flippancy. I adored her need for freedom and her embracing of adventure. Yes, I could see that underwriting this all was the opposing theme of the need for stability, but she just made me smile.
Apparently, Holly Golightly was the fictional embodiment of Capote’s own thoughts and philosophies. As a 5ft 4in, openly homosexual eccentric with a very distinctive high-pitched voice and odd mannerisms and dress sense, Capote understood the struggles with social convention that Holly battles with. In his later life, Capote turned to alcohol and substance abuse to cope with these struggles and his “red” moods or depression. The fact that Holly seemed to cope with them by searching for further adventure could in some way be seen as sad, but to me it seemed that she refused to let go of what it meant to be alive.
The other three stories can also be seen as depressing or joyous, depending on your viewpoint. I read House of Flowers as being about falling in love, and choosing to stay that way when even temptation returns. A Christmas Memory appeared to be somewhat autobiographical, and the description of a wonderful Christmas tradition in the face of poverty was lovely. Granted, A Diamond Guitar was the one story of the four which was unhappy, but it was nevertheless written in a way which caused to you to think.
Considering Breakfast at Tiffany’s was released in 1958, the themes of homosexuality were difficult ones to face at the time. This explains why the main character was so sanitised for the Hollywood version. Perhaps if the film was remade today, the screenwriters may not shirk away from exploring aspects that Capote clearly meant to address? Although even so, I would still prefer to read the book.
There are a couple of alternative reviews which I have found which are worth a look at.
Date Finished: 27 May 2008
Challenges: 2/8 of Category 2 – American Fiction for the 888 Challenge