Hidden gems

Matthew Miele on some of the secrets revealed in Crazy About Tiffany's.

by Anne-Katrin Titze

Tiffany & Co. in New York
Tiffany & Co. in New York Photo: Anne-Katrin Titze

Rob Marshall, Baz Luhrmann and Catherine Martin on Carey Mulligan's The Great Gatsby pearls, Mickey Rooney in Blake Edwards' Breakfast At Tiffany's, Truman Capote, Fran Lebowitz coming out of a Tiffany clock in Martin Scorsese's Public Speaking, a connection to Marcel Broodthaers, Woody Allen and Wes Anderson in The Carlyle and Gay Talese not after Anna Wintour's 2015 Costume Institute Met Gala (Andrew Rossi's The First Monday In May to open Tribeca), DJs Andrew & Andrew and what's next for Scatter My Ashes At Bergdorf's director Matthew Miele.

The Great Gatsby director Baz Luhrmann: "I knew we could journey from Baz to China."
The Great Gatsby director Baz Luhrmann: "I knew we could journey from Baz to China."

Who knew that the New York Yankees' logo, the interlocking N and Y, was conceived by Tiffany's, initially for a police medal? Or how much Steve Jobs loved his Tiffany lamp? Or that in 1886 Charles Tiffany introduced the world to the diamond engagement ring? Gene Moore, the iconic Tiffany window decorator was similarly infatuated with eggs as was Marcel Broodthaers, whose retrospective just opened at MoMA, a cat's leap southwest from Tiffany's. Miele's documentary is packed with little known gems.

Anne-Katrin Titze: You are really covering New York's big …

Matthew Miele: Iconic New York, yeah.

AKT: Bergdorf's, Tiffany's. The Carlyle is next?

MM: Carlyle is next. How did you hear about that?

AKT: Well, it is mentioned at the end of your film in the snippets with Andrew & Andrew.

MM: We're doing The Carlyle next because again it's iconic New York. I mean, we have everyone from Woody Allen in there to Wes Anderson. I'm really trying to demystify some of the legends and iconic things in our city. And I think, learning about these things, but also the challenge of getting the behind the scenes. The Carlyle is so legendary in that it's secretive about what happens there.

Gene Moore Tiffany window
Gene Moore Tiffany window

How they protect their people. And I just wanted to talk to the staff but also talk to the guests. Why do you have this undying loyalty to this place? People have a thousand stays. It's mind-boggling to think that.

AKT: The last time I was at The Carlyle was with Gay Talese for tea after we went to see the China: Through The Looking Glass exhibition.

MM: Is that right? After the Met Gala! That makes a lot of sense.

AKT: No, no, not after the Met Gala. We went to see the exhibition together and I did a [two part] feature with Gay about China and clothes.

MM: I've seen him there [at The Carlyle] before. Was that his suggestion to go there? He likes it there.

AKT: Yes, it's very nice to relax and talk.

MM: That's what I mean. You go in there and find every day - I'm there all the time - every day someone else.

Grand Central Terminal Tiffany clock
Grand Central Terminal Tiffany clock

AKT: You are still working on that one?

MM: Oh, yeah. We've been there two years now.

AKT: Back to Tiffany's, I loved the shot of Fran Lebowitz coming out of the Tiffany clock at Grand Central Terminal. Like a cuckoo! What a fantastic image.

mM: That was from a movie Scorsese shot, her documentary. But it actually was important for us because I think in the film she doesn't talk about why she did that. She loves that clock. She talks about her knowledge of Louis Comfort Tiffany and what that clock is all about.

AKT: You made interesting choices in who you had talk about what. For example, when it is brought up that Audrey Hepburn plays a prostitute in Breakfast At Tiffany's, you have Rob Marshall mention it first and then come the [8-year-old] twins - who remain unnamed. Did their mother not want the names in there?

MM: Well, they actually were my nieces who are in the film and I just think they didn't need it … I tried to make them more just kids.

Tiffany window on Fifth Avenue
Tiffany window on Fifth Avenue Photo: Anne-Katrin Titze

AKT: They are great.

MM: They're good, maybe a little precocious. They're very good because they're New York kids. They grew up with these images and you want to know from their perspective what their thoughts are.

AKT: So you ruined their idea of what Breakfast At Tiffany's was by saying to them "So did you know that Holly Golightly was a hooker?" You give them a Barbie and then …

MM: They had the doll! But I did say, "Did you know what she really is?" Because a lot of people, they'd say, oh I love New York, Breakfast At Tiffany's, I came here because Audrey came. And it's like, do you understand what she was doing here and what role she was playing? It came from Truman Capote, so it wasn't like squeaky clean.

AKT: It's never mean-spirited. But you capture those real moments. Also, everybody struggling with the name Schlumberger [of Tiffany jewelry designer Jean Schlumberger], which is really terrific.

Tiffany window Holly Golightly (Audrey Hepburn): "It came from Truman Capote, so it wasn't like squeaky clean."
Tiffany window Holly Golightly (Audrey Hepburn): "It came from Truman Capote, so it wasn't like squeaky clean."

MM: Right. I didn't really understand how it was pronounced either till I heard it a few times. But then it was different every time, and I'm like "whoa, what is it?" And I was searching for it as much as they were - Is it "Schlamburger"? Is it "Schloomberjay"? That for me is making it relatable again. Because a lot of people are intimidated to go in there and not know. So if you don't hear the sales associate say it, how do you ask to see it without knowing the pronunciation. So why not make light of it so that you do get the message finally through people who are making the same mistake.

AKT: Exactly, we all have names that we don't know how to pronounce [my own rhymes with pizza].

MM: And that's a difficult one.

AKT: Right. He is from the Alsace. His name is spelled the German way, it's pronounced the French way.

MM: What is the German way to pronounce it?

Marcel Broodthaers - Armoire blanche et table blanche - MoMA
Marcel Broodthaers - Armoire blanche et table blanche - MoMA Photo: Anne-Katrin Titze

AKT: Schlummburger.

MM: Oh it is? So maybe that's the way it's supposed to be?

AKT: You have to go back to his ancestors. The Alsace went back and forth between Germany and France.

MM: I studied there for three months. So I am familiar with the whole difference of the words.

AKT: Did you study in Strasbourg?

MM: Strasbourg, yeah. Black forest and all that.

AKT: Another very funny segue, I didn't even get until I looked at the notes I took. There is Baz Luhrmann talking about the Gatsby pearls and from there that he was just in China. And from there you jump to Mickey Rooney!

MM: Oh, I didn't even think about that. That's right!

AKT: Was that your editor [Justin Bare]?

MM: Well, I knew we could journey from Baz to China. And we actually traveled to China so we were looking to figure out how to incorporate the footage we got from Beijing into the film and coincidentally he was talking about China so we thought that's a good way… It was interesting how Mickey Rooney played that role and you want to call that out because I don't think many people do. And it's awful that it was depicted that way.

The Carlyle: "I mean, we have everyone from Woody Allen in there to Wes Anderson."
The Carlyle: "I mean, we have everyone from Woody Allen in there to Wes Anderson." Photo: Anne-Katrin Titze

AKT: That's why as lovely as much of it is, many places don't show the film because of the racism in that depiction. Two final questions about the soundtrack. When Andrew & Andrew are telling their story about the song Breakfast At Tiffany's, you don't make it completely clear what they are talking about. It could have been Moon River, right?

MM: It was difficult to get that right because we didn't get the interview with Todd Pipes, the lead singer, until after the fact. It was hard to figure out how we wanted to position that. For our generation, I think a lot of people know it's Breakfast At Tiffany's, the Nineties song. But you're right, I think it could be misconstrued that they're talking about Moon River. Hopefully it became pretty clear. Did you know the song?

AKT: Vaguely familiar. Now I feel that I could sing it.

MM: Do you like the song?

AKT: Not really. When we see the jewelers at work, there is a lovely switch. There is the soundtrack and suddenly you make us feel as though they were listening to the song while working.

Crazy About Tiffany's US poster
Crazy About Tiffany's US poster

MM: That was on purpose. That area felt extremely meditative when we're in there. It's so quiet and you feel like it should have that music in there because of how they're designing things. They wear headphones a lot and you kind of want to know what they're listening to.

AKT: On the one hand it's quite clear that that's not what they're listening to …

MM: It was trying to get the feel of what we felt when we walked in there and that music hit the right note for us.

Read what Matthew Miele had to say about the journey he took in the making of Crazy About Tiffany's.

Crazy About Tiffany's is screening at the Film Society of Lincoln Center.

Marcel Broodthaers: A Retrospective curated by Christophe Cherix, Robert Lehman Chief Curator of Drawings and Prints at MoMA, and Manuel J. Borja-Villel, Director of the Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofía runs through May 15, 2016 at the Museum of Modern Art in New York.

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