“The quietness and the proud look of it; nothing very bad could happen to you there.”
These were the words screenwriter George Axelrod wrote for Holly Golightly to praise Tiffany & Co.’s majestic 5th Avenue store in BREAKFAST AT TIFFANY’S. And no sentiment better describes the endorphin-boosting experience when one steps foot into one of their many stores. Director Matthew Miele (SCATTER MY ASHES AT BERGDORF GOODMAN) continues his unofficial series, pulling back the curtain on New York’s most iconic institutions with his latest documentary, CRAZY ABOUT TIFFANY’S. Get ready to magpie out on all the sparkle and dazzle.
When you buy a piece of jewelry or a trinket from Tiffany’s, you’re really buying into an aspirational lifestyle that stands for excellence in craftsmanship. They’re selling a story most of us only dream of affording. Perhaps one of the best things director Miele’s film impresses upon its audience is how groundbreaking and innovative Tiffany’s has been. For instance, branding colors may be something very modern, but they were the first ones to do it. That signature shade of robin’s egg blue is held under lock and key. The marketing and concept of the engagement ring was introduced by Charles Tiffany in 1886 (thank you, Charles!). The fine art of window design was pioneered by one of Tiffany’s guys, Gene Moore, who changed the face of modern design. The store and its legacy have also bled into entertainment, showing up in films and shows like SWEET HOME ALABAMA, OCEAN’S ELEVEN, BRIDE WARS, FRIENDS, and of course the aforementioned Audrey Hepburn classic – which itself inspired Deep Blue Something’s pop song “Breakfast At Tiffany’s.”
The film isn’t just an 87-minute long advertisement for the store, however. Miele isn’t afraid to broach topics like Tiffany’s sky-high prices for their goods. It actually leads to a few really wonderful anecdotes. He doesn’t hide the fact that that most of his gushing interviewees didn’t actually buy their engagement rings from Tiffany’s, but rather on 47th street in the diamond district. He also speaks with a millennial whose thesis project labeled the store “tired” and out of touch with her generation – even as she sports what looks like this Tiffany necklace. However, the story that turns it around is from University of Chicago professor David Jablonski. When he was a kid, he wrote Tiffany’s Chairman Walter Hoving about his wish to give his mother an expensive diamond ring, and was sent gold earrings in return. This brings unexpected humanity to a corporation – a quality we don’t usually associate with the almost-out-of-reach brand.
While Miele hits on many things associated with the store, a few fascinating topics are broached but not totally explored: I was left wanting to learn more about the store’s first-ever female design director, Francesca Amfitheatrof. China’s new economic wealth probably could have been its own documentary. It would also have been interesting to see a more detailed, “fly on the wall” approach to the creation of The Blue Book, but the film simply shows snippets of the jewelers at work and Francesca with the layout.
Despite my tiny wishes not materializing fully, overall this is an absolutely fabulous insight into the charm of Tiffany’s glitz and glamour. Though it might lead to some frustrating online window shopping afterward (now that I can pronounce “Schulmberger,” I feel it’s my god-given right to own a piece), Miele’s film is a beguiling fantasy – and nothing very bad could happen to you while watching it.
CRAZY ABOUT TIFFANY’S opens on February 19.