|Cigarettes aren't cool, except this one.|
So why, if it's clearly a good, cool, and well-regarded film, had it never been placed before me? I couldn't think of anyone who claimed it as their favourite, or had enthused to me about it, as they do about other famous romances of the forties and fifties (decades to which I'd hitherto tied this work of the early sixties). I believe the answer may be this: Mr. I.Y. Yunioshi.
|Mickey Rooney as I.Y. Yunioshi|
I'm tempted to go on saying 'if we ignore this unfortunate blemish, the film is great fun,' and so on, but I'm not sure casual racism is something we ought to ignore. Now, I'm more liberal than some on the issue of blacking up, yellowing up and such, and will offer an attempt at defence of Laurence Olivier's Othello in 1965, or John Bennett's Li H'sen Chang in 'The Talons of Weng-Chiang' (1977), as it's just feasible that they were the best of the available actors for those dramatic roles at the time, but Mickey Rooney's performance here just takes the biscuit: histrionic, clumsy, myopic and perpetually outraged, with the gigantic teeth that one can likewise find in inherently horrible Japanese characters in Hergé's Tintin.
|Seized by a compulsion, Holly and Paul shoplift some animal masks.|
There's hope, on and off, though I shan't say any more about what ensues. It's a well-written film, adapting a novella by Truman Capote, which seems to be enough of a selling-point that I ought at least to mention it. As I intimated above, I can't quite come to recommend it, as Mr. Yunioshi is a small but significant sour point in something that ought to be sweet. On the basis of his appearance, planned screenings of the film are on occasion cancelled or boycotted, and the reputation of the whole is marred.
Nonetheless, here's your chance to exercise your rights as a materialist.