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Title: The Audrey Hepburn Collection

Movie: :4.5stars:
Video: :4stars:
Audio: :4stars:
Extras: :4stars:

HTS Overall Score:82


Audrey Hepburn has always held a kind of magic for me. She’s one of the classic actresses that tended to play herself in all her roles, but since I love the person she was, I find nothing to criticize. She always had a disarming charm that made me wish I could be like her. In movies like Sabrina and Breakfast at Tiffany’s and Charade, she possessed a delightful confidence and unassuming candidness rarely seen in contemporary films. I envy her these traits.
Warner Brothers releases the Audrey Hepburn Collection on Blu Ray, containing audio and visual remasterings of three of Hepbun’s most iconic films: Sabrina, Funny Face, and Breakfast at Tiffany’s.

Sabrina :4.5stars:
“Sabrina” is the story of a chauffeur’s daughter (Audrey Hepburn) obsessed with the youngest son of her father’s employer. She gets shipped off to a quality cooking school in Paris, where her father hopes she will not only learn skills to help her gain employment, but also that she will get over David Larabee (William Holden), a notorious playboy. Sabrina, however, returns a transformed creature. No longer awkward and girlish, she steals David’s heart with her sophistication and charm, right out from under his workaholic brother’s nose. Afraid that his plans to marry off David to seal a twenty million dollar merger will go awry, Linus Larabee (Humphrey Bogart) attempts to dissuade, then distract Sabrina from her heart’s desire. In the process, however, he discovers he has a heart as well as a brain, and Sabrina begins to waver in her certainty of her love for David.

I saw the Julia Ormond/Harrison Ford “Sabrina” first, many years ago, and LOVED it, but I had no idea it was a remake until a friend of mine rented the DVD (remember those days?) and brought it over. I remember watching in and mentally comparing it to its more recent counterpart, and I concluded in the end that the original Linus did not love the original Sabrina. Why? Because the way Bogart played him felt more like a calculating charlatan, while Ford’s version clearly transitioned from would-be seducer to suitor. The change was more obvious, genuine, and above all, believable. Yet I didn’t understand why until I watched “Sabrina” again in this collection.
It wasn’t so much the story itself, but rather Bogart’s tendency to act the same precise way with certain lines. I’ve seen enough of his work between my first viewing of the 1954 “Sabrina” and now to conjecture that in particular parts where Linus tells Sabrina some sad story of his past, it’s not that Linus is making it up to gain her sympathy like I first thought; it’s the way Bogart delivers, “Oh, yeah,” as if being recalled to something he mentioned previously is somehow an unexpected surprise. Hepburn, however, is far superior in her performance of Sabrina Fairchild. While Julia Ormond held her own acting with Harrison Ford and Greg Kinnear, she didn’t have the same illumination in her face, nor the same confident grace for which Hepburn is renowned.

Funny Face :4stars:
This isn’t your normal opposites-attract love story. When a fashion magazine executive Maggie Prescott (Kay Thompson) and her head photographer Dick Avery (Fred Astaire) barge into a bookstore without permission to use it for a photo shoot, bookseller Jo Stockton (Audrey Hepburn) catches their attention with both her vocal assertiveness and unique face. When the same magazine executive decides the world needs a representative of the “ideal woman,” the same old models just won’t do, and she decides that Jo is different enough to make it work. Jo, however, has no desire to model, and it takes an appeal from Dick to lure her to Paris to both model for their magazine and meet her favorite living philosopher.

“Funny Face” is one of my least favorite Audrey Hepburn movie. It follows the same general direction of all musicals – songs and dances are stuffed into scenes wherever possible, regardless as to whether they ought to fit there. I think perhaps sometimes a composer is so intent on squeezing a song into a scene that they sacrifice quality and character believability. For example, the modern dance number in the Paris café – was there a revealing character point that needed to be mad? No. We already know Jo is independent, willful, and naive. The dance does nothing to augment or clarify that. It might be construed as demonstrating the “accepting” or perhaps “indifferent” mindset of the café patrons, as they studiously ignore Joe’s antics no matter what she does. However, had the film would not have suffered in the slightest if the number were cut. Also, the song about what reporters would ask Jo as the representative of the ideal woman. In no other scene do reporters ask anything of Jo, so why it is there? Again, we know the characters’ traits and history from previous scenes, so there’s no development needed, and the song doesn’t forward the plot or reveal anything necessary to the climax or resolution. It might have been added to help show what the fashion industry tries to shove down women’s throats about how to “be lovely;” unrealistic standards, all of them, since loveliness as defined by this song is possessing an endless supply of happiness, charm, know-how, jolliness, and cheeriness. Ridiculous. However, despite this clarification, the song has no useful function. Thus, the film, again, would not have suffered by its absence.

The story, however, can be viewed as rather compelling. It’s a tongue-in-cheek battle between the superficially beautiful and the self-righteously intelligent. The two war against each other, saying their way is the single definition of value, the true way to happiness. Each detests the other for their lack of understanding and acceptance, for their disrespect and mockery. But the representatives of these worlds, Dick and Jo, somehow manage to connect, appreciate, and eventually love each other. Dick is the only one in the fashion world that treats Jo with any modicum of respect, and Jo is much more than the usual glamorous-yet-vapid models with whom Dick usually works. Unfortunately, they still step on each other’s toes in surprisingly realistic dynamics. Jo forgets an appointment in her excitement at spending time with fellow philosophers. Dick reacts badly when confronted with jealousy. Jo’s naiveté about men’s motivations put her in a dangerous situation, and Dick insults Jo’s beliefs in a fit of frustration. They apologize, forgive, miscommunicate, resonate, and, ironically, manage to overcome their differences by exercising the one trait Jo prizes so highly, yet fails at applying: empathy. Moral of the story: It’s never either/or, but a balance of both/and.

Breakfast At Tiffany's :4.5stars:

Breakfast at Tiffany’s is one of the most celebrated of Audrey Hepburn’s films. She plays Holly Golightly, the carefree ingénue searching New York for her perfect dream millionaire. One morning, Paul Varjack (George Peppard), a disillusioned young writer, moves into her building at the behest of his “patroness,” and he gets caught up in Holly’s hectic yet captivating lifestyle. She calls him Fred because he resembles her brother, and the two of them form an affectionate bond, one that survives personal drama, drunken insults, and romantic entanglements.

I feel sorry for Holly Golightly. She spends the whole movie not knowing who she is or what she wants, scared to pieces that she’ll be trapped in a life she hates, all while pretending to be glamorously eccentric. Charming she is, for sure, but even within the first ten minutes, we see her admiring wealth, fleeing aggressive suitors, manipulating men, and confessing to have moments of inexplicable terror – what she calls “the made reds.” But then, she is also so darling and worldly and child-like al at the same time you can’t help but enjoy her when she’s lively, or feel protective when she’s scared or grieving. I think that’s Holly’s universal appeal, the timeless draw of Breakfast at Tiffany’s: We see pieces of ourselves in Holly, and Hepburn has such a way of taking any character she plays and making her endearing.

Paul is also an interesting character. I’d seen “Breakfast at Tiffany’s” twice before, but only this last time did I pay attention to his character story. I always felt him too forgiving of Holly, but there are aspects of him I didn’t notice before – how he people watches instead of interacting, his constant “saving” of Holly (though she often forces it on him), his acceptance of being “sponsored” by a married woman, and his resentment at the lack of success of his first book. He transitions from a passive-aggressive protector to an active rescuer to a demanding lover, ultimately refusing to accept Holly’s stubborn pursuit of easy wealth and challenging her on her notions that everyone else seeks to put her in a cage – she’s already in one of her own devising.


Not Rated by the MPAA

Video :4stars:

Sabrina :4.5stars:
“Sabrina” is originally shot in black and white, which Warner has preserved in this transfer. However, despite the issue of such a limited palate, the detail and sharpness are incredible. Black crush is a danger for B&W, but no evidence of it is present, even during the nighttime scenes. Detail intricacies are fine and clean: wrinkles in David’s pants, the fine hairs along Sabrina’s temples, the pores in Linus’ face, individual strands of hair, even fabric textures. No sign of digital noise, banding, or macro-blocking - a phenomenal video transfer. Contrast is another nemesis of Black and White films, but it looks like the film was treated with kid gloves and the black vs. white balance is spot on perfect.

Interestingly enough, this is the first time that "Sabrina" has presented in it's original theatrical aspect ratio. Before this, all the home video releases were open matte and taken from the original 1.37:1 source instead of framed how it was in theaters. It's interesting getting use to the new framing, consider that we've all seen it in 1.33:1 Academy for all these years, but it is certainly the most accurate presentation to date.

Funny Face :3stars:
Funny Face is presented in bright, rich colors with fantastic detail. Lights are clean and crisp, and darks are deep and lush. Night scenes and shadows are devoid of crush. However, there are two scenes where the director chose to make artistic changes, the most annoying being glaring white. The edges of everything are softened, and anything white catches the light so intensely it gives the picture a hazy shimmer, like noon during a desert summer. It’s hard to watch despite the lovely location and pretty song, so much so that it gave me a mild headache. However, the rest of the picture is much more forgiving. the detail seems to be strong until you throw it on a projector screen and the whole thing starts to fall apart. On really large screen you can see there is a LOT of digital manipulation and trickery to make it look good on smaller screens. Once seen though, it can not be unseen and the DNR and other digital tools used turns it into an ugly mess. I have never seen a picture where it looks fine on a 60 inch screen but once put on the projector looks night and day difference. Sad, but it is the weak link in the set here.

Breakfast at Tiffany's :4stars:
Thankfully "Breakfast at Tiffany's" is more like "Sabrina", than "Funny Face", as the video presentation is an absolute knockout from beginning to end with bright colors and and a very clean presentation. There is no print damage that I can ascertain and there is a wonderfully trim level of grain over the entire film. Detail is stunning as you can see every fold and curve of Audrey's sumptuous clothing and every crease on George Peppard's face in crystal clarity. Clarity and sharpness is exquisite, with only a few soft spots to mar the otherwise pristine image. It's always a revelation to see older movies like this one look so incredible and for some reason it actually gives me more joy watching these transfers than the already expected high quality of modern movies. The only fault to the image is that there is a bit of a waxy tone to the image, as some DNR was obviously used. It wasn't as bad as say, "Face/Off", but it's noticeable if you know where to look.

Audio :4stars:


Sabrina :4stars:
Sabrina is presented in its original 2.0 mono audio presentation with a DTS-HD MA upgrade. As you can guess from a mono release we aren’t going to any surround usage so there is some limitations there, but as a mono source it is a VERY well done mastering of the track. No distortion or hiss is present and the fidelity of the dialogue comes through with pinpoint clarity. Voices and effects are kept well balanced and I didn’t notice any muddying of the front two speakers, which is such a revelation, considering the distortion levels caused some problems in my old DVD. As a purist I’m happy that the original track was kept in its 2.0 form instead of remixing it to 5.1, but the nerd in me is curious how it would have turned out.

Funny Face :4stars:
Funny face is upmixed from its original mono track to a fully mixed 5.1 DTS-HD MA track, although the 2.0 track is present for purists in Dolby Digital. The remix is a very good upgrade as it adds some depth and dimensionality to the audio, giving some umph in the low end and showing some very nice directionality. There is always a few limitations with these remixes and every once in a while you hear some funky sounds coming from the surrounds that probably shouldn’t have been there. Fidelity is excellent, considering the era and dialogue is spot on perfect, with excellent clarity.

Breakfast at Tiffany's :4stars:
Breakfast at Tiffany's is the best of all 3 tracks, as it is an immerse and enveloping track, no matter the age of the movie. Fidelity is fantastic, with copious use of the surrounds as Henry Mancini's score comes to life in the home. Surrounds are in constant use with the musical score and the hustle n bustle of the city streets. Directionality is quite good with some excellent use of pans in the front sound stage. I have to say that hearing it this way is like hearing it for the first time as I'm so used to the old 2.0 track that the expanded sound field is just so incredible! auditory detail comes through in spades, but doesn't swamp the viewer in unneeded sounds. Dialogue is crystal clear and locked up front where it should be, and no extraneous dialogue or sounds are mixed in the back channels as with some remixes. Spot on excellent all the way around.

Extras: :4stars:
• Audrey Hepburn: Fashion Icon
• Sabrina's World
• Supporting Sabrina
• William Holden: The Paramount Years
• Sabrina Documentary
• Behind the Gates: Cameras
Funny Face
• Kay Thompson: Think Pink!
• This is VistaVision
• Fashion Photographers Exposed
• The Fashion Designer and His Muse
• Parisian Dreams
• Theatrical Trailers
Breakfast at Tiffany's
• Audio Commentary
• A Golightly Gathering
• Henry Mancini: More than Music
• Mr. Yunioshi: An Asian Perspective
• Breakfast at Tiffany's: The Making of a Classic
• It's So Audrey! A Style Icon
• Behind the Gates: The Tour
• Brilliance in a Blue Box
• Audrey's Letter to Tiffany
• Galleries
• Theatrical Trailer

Overall: :4stars:

Overall, I rather enjoyed my foray into Audrey Hepburn’s most celebrated works. She’s spunky, affectionate, and guileless, with a lovely singing voice and long, dramatic eyelashes. This is an excellent addition for any Audrey Hepburn fan, and would make a ideal gift for those just discovering her. From the glamorous Sabrina to the whimsical Jo to the unconventional Holly, Hepburn is a delight in any film. The audio and video are excellent (except for the marred video in "Funny Face") so for those who haven't picked up the singles yet, this is a fantastically inexpensive way to pick up all three these Audrey classics. Definitely recommended

Additional Information:

Starring: Audrey Hepburn, William Holder, Humphrey Bogart, Fred Astaire, George Peppard
Directed by: Billy Wilder : Stanley Donen : Blake Edwards
Written by: Billy Wilder, Samuel A Taylor : Leonard Gershe : George Axelrod
Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1 AVC / 1.78:1 AVC / 1.78:1 AVC
Audio: ENGLISH: DTS - HD MA 2.0, French, Spanish DD 2.0 : English DTS-HD MA 5.1, English, Spanish, French DD 2.0 : English DTS-HD MA 5.1, English, French, Spanish, Portuguese DD Mono
Studio: Warner Brothers
Rated: Not Rated
Runtime: 114 minutes : 103 minutes : 115 minutes
Blu-Ray Release Date: September 30th, 2014

Buy The Audrey Hepburn Collection Blu-ray on Amazon

Recommendation: Watch It

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