In 1959, Truman Capote learns of the murder of a Kansas family and decides to write a book about the case. While researching for his novel In Cold Blood, Capote forms a relationship with one of the killers, Perry Smith, who is on death row.
The story of the life and career of the legendary rhythm and blues musician Ray Charles, from his humble beginnings in the South, where he went blind at age seven, to his meteoric rise to stardom during the 1950s and 1960s.
In 1959, Truman Capote, a popular writer for The New Yorker, learns about the horrific and senseless murder of a family of four in Holcomb, Kansas. Inspired by the story material, Capote and his partner, Harper Lee, travel to the town to research for an article. However, as Capote digs deeper into the story, he is inspired to expand the project into what would be his greatest work, In Cold Blood. To that end, he arranges extensive interviews with the prisoners, especially with Perry Smith, a quiet and articulate man with a troubled history. As he works on his book, Capote feels some compassion for Perry which in part prompts him to help the prisoners to some degree. However, that feeling deeply conflicts with his need for closure for his book which only an execution can provide. That conflict and the mixed motives for both interviewer and subject make for a troubling experience that would produce an literary account that would redefine modern non-fiction. Written by
Kenneth Chisholm (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Outstanding performance, witty dialog but visually unimaginative -- it will play better on TV
"Capote" is a film with undeniable assets: it's got the best performance by an American actor in the last decade and some of the wittiest dialog in an American film in recent years. Philip Seymour Hoffman's once-in-a-lifetime performance is simply jaw-dropping (and he's aware of it): it's a triumph of vocal and body work, with a huge range (mentally and emotionally), but above all it sparkles with supremely intelligent acting in portraying the lizard man with the 215-point I.Q. and the 1,000,000-point ego.
The film focuses entirely on the circumstances concerning the genesis of Truman Capote's masterpiece "In Cold Blood" (the title that had, of course, a double meaning, as it described both the set of mind of the 1959 Kansas harrowing criminals and of Capote himself in his Machiavellian saga to finally complete his book). The film concentrates on Capote's transformation from lightweight literary wunderkind and jet-set wit to trend-setting, seriously talented writer, depicting the Faustian/Mephistophelian process he goes through as he realizes that, in order to produce his ground-breaking "non-fiction novel" -- which helped consolidate American media's fascination with violence, death and crime -- he has to sink deeply in muddy waters of manipulation, adulation, mendacity, bribery, omission, ultimately having to face the ugliest side of himself, like a modern Dorian Gray. In "Capote", the horrifying Kansas crime, the murderers and the circumstances that led to their execution are the background scenery allowing the filmmakers to question the author's autistic egotism, gargantuan ambition and tortuous, perverse morality (just in case anyone forgets: Capote's novel benefited who, again?)
If "Capote" ultimately impacts less than it could/should, director Bennett Miller is probably to blame. Visually, it's bland and unexciting: it's a real shame to see such an unimaginative handling of such potentially thrilling material. "Capote" has some of the dullest courtroom scenes in movie history (and the competition is high, as we know). And what about those gigantic, paralyzed close-ups? And that static, lifeless camera? The audience goes to see the film pretty much aware that Capote's (and the screenwriter's) wit and Hoffman's performance are the core of it, and no one was asking for an action movie, but did it have to look so bland? Maybe Miller just lacks mileage (this is only his second film); or maybe he's simply not visually oriented, maybe he's an actors' director. Despite the fascinating subject, a great performance and above-average dialog, Miller's "Capote" disappointingly looks like a TV movie.
Apart from those (not trifle) objections, "Capote" is recommended for all of us who thought wit, subtlety and acting excellence had all but disappeared from American films. PS: Richard Brooks' irregular but visually striking 1967 version of "In Cold Blood" is a complementary companion to this one.
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