TCcapote05.11.19

Capote


I love this snapshot. I've always thought that it was a picture of Truman and Marilyn dancing but the more I study it, the more I question my original interpretation. Looking carefully I wonder what Capote's hands are doing - it looks like he's preventing Monroe's escape and her facial expression suggests she might have just stepped in a fresh dog turd.

I mention this because Capote would have us believe that at every social function, Truman was the sun around which mortals orbited and basked in his light. But the man, by most accounts, was a prick.

Some of Truman's warts are on display in Capote and I was hoping the film would portray him as a real SOB but in many scenes, he's been scrubbed and polished by Hollywood's buffer which decrees that all protagonists must have at least some likeable qualities. As the film often illustrates when T.C. attends those cocktail-drinking, double-pack-smoking, plush-sofa-lounging suit & tie affairs that seemed to take place on the hour in 1960's New York, the man was charming because he had a quick wit and was adept at bon mots but he doesn't quite come across as the self-centered bastard you'd think he was if you met a similar person at a bar in the distillery district.

That said there is much to like about

FSHcapote05.11.19

Capote. Undoubtedly you've already heard about Philip Seymour Hoffman's spot-on projection of Capote's high-pitched lisp and effeminate gestures and that the role will most likely garner Hoffman an Academy Award for Best Actor. (side rant - my vote still goes for Paul Kay as DJ Frankie Wild in It's All Gone Pete Tong)

Hoffman's thesping is a powerful display of the inner turmoil eating away at a man who wrestles with his conscience daily for six years while he creates "a new style of writing" - the non-fiction novel. Hoffman sublimely suggests the difficulty Capote must have had when writing In Cold Blood; as he researches the murder of a Kansas family there is a battle between his obsession to finish the book and the compassion he feels for the two men on trial for the murders.

Some of the best scenes in the film revolve around Truman's prison visits with the murders. He's a man with a purpose -there's a story to be written- and will do anything he can to rip the details of the murders from the killers. Here's the Capote I was waiting for: calculating, slimy, and not at all hesitant about lying to a condemned man even if he's begging T.C. for truthful words.

So much praise has been heaped on Hoffman's performance that not enough has been said about the great work of the film's other actors, particularly by Catherine Keener as Capote's childhood friend Harper Lee and by Clifton Collins Jr. as killer Perry Smith. The latter role in particular had me wondering if Collins Jr. were channelling the energies of Robert Blake who played the Perry character in the original In Cold Blood (1967). The similarities are striking.

If you've read the novel or watched any of the In Cold Blood cinematic interpretations you'll already know the themes of Capote: the effects of non-objective reporting and seeing murders as human beings rather than the inhuman monsters most of us assume killers to be. It's a theme worth revisiting in a time when gun violence in Toronto has people wringing their hands over the causes. Who's to blame? Certainly the killers themselves hold some responsibility for their actions yet societal forces -education, poverty, racism- must be contributing factors.

Murders are not born spontaneously and Capote drives home that notion. And though he's able to detail what motivated two men to kill a family, Truman is unwilling to prevent their deaths, or even offer much comfort to the men before they die. After the killers are hanged for their crimes a traumatized Truman laments, "There wasn't anything I could do to save them," to which Harper Lee retorts, "The fact is, you didn't want to save them."

What isn't revealed in the film's ending is that Capote was supposedly relieved when the two men's final appeal of their death sentences was declined - Capote needed their deaths as closure for his novel and knew it would help book sales. It worked: In Cold Blood was a massive worldwide success. Begging the question who was the real cold-blooded opportunist?

TC & MM pic borrowed from amsaw.org
PSHoffman pic from movies.yahoo.com


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