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Greetings again from the darkness. What a unique film-going experience.
Having the opportunity to see two takes on the same subject matter
within a year or so is pretty rare in Hollywood. It happened most
recently with "Tombstone" and the vastly inferior "Wyatt Earp". Rarely
does it happen when both films are exceptionally well made and acted
... as is the case with last year's "Capote" and now, "Infamous".
First of all, you must understand that the films are actually based on different books. "Infamous" is based on George Plimpton's book in which he really tries to capture Truman Capote, the man and the genius. Because of this, director Douglas McGrath ("Nicholas Nickleby" and "Emma") utilizes some faux-interview segments, much like a "Biography" segment on television. Of course, both films center around the process of Capote researching and writing his masterpiece "In Cold Blood" based on the brutal slaying of a Kansas family in their farmhouse. They both also explore Capote's bizarre relationship with Perry Smith (played brilliantly here by the next James Bond, Daniel Craig). The sexual tension between the two is palpable, but we continue to question if Capote is merely manipulating Smith for the story or if, in fact, there is real substance to the attraction. We will never know if his reaction on death row is heartbreak or guilt. The mystery adds to the power of the story.
The cast in this film is nothing short of spectacular. From the opening moments with Gwyneth Paltrow portraying the great Peggy Lee in a melancholy stage moment to Sigourney Weaver, Hope Davis, Isabella Rossellini and Juliet Stevenson doing the twist, the actresses are terrific - as are their amazing costumes! In addition to Daniel Craig as Perry Smith, Lee Pace (as Dick Hickcock), Jeff Daniels as the sheriff and ("Last Picture Show" director) Peter Bogdanovich as Bennett Cerf, the actors are also top notch.
Toby Jones as Truman Capote is much more flamboyant and colorful than the amazing performance by Phillip Seymour Hoffman last year. Many will try to compare, but what I say is, enjoy them both for their high level of artistry! Now for something I never thought I would put in writing. Sandra Bullock is extremely effective as Nelle Harper Lee (Capote's muse and of course, the author of "To Kill a Mockingbird"). Bullock usually flips her hair and bumbles all cutesy-like through her performances, but not here. She plays Ms. Lee straightforward and tough, just like the real thing. How wonderful.
Yes, the story is still heart-wrenching, but "Infamous" provides much more levity, humor and color than the more somber "Capote". Both are wonderful films with excellent casts. Enjoy them both as fine film-making seems to be a rare commodity these days.
When I saw "Capote" I was really impressed by the presentation of the
story and the quality of the acting. When I saw "Infamous" today, I was
caught up with the story in a way I had not been before. It was closer
to the experience when I read the book many,many years ago. "In Cold
Blood" is about killing human beings, and I believe that it is no more
right for cold blooded murders to do it than for me do do it as a
member of society that authorizes the death penalty. I believe that the
film as well as the book makes people think about this issue The cast
was superb, and I said the same about the earlier rendition, but this
time the characters were fully developed and believable under the
circumstances. I had been impressed before, but this film is different
from the last--it is more emotional, more detailed in rendition of the
characters, and more interested in showing not just the destruction of
Truman Capote, but in sharing the ideas that he expressed in "In Cold
When I was growing up (I am 62 now) I recall that I did not like Capote when I saw him on talk shows repeatedly. I really knew nothing of gay culture or what even that meant at the time, so it had nothing to do with the sexual orientation. It had to do with the ego that was constantly expressed and realted to nothing that I really cared about.
But what was incredibly important to me then and now is that we can lose track of the fact that we are all human beings, a point that was stressed in the film. Killers may be killers, but they are us, in a way, filled with some of the same ambitions, hates, emotions that most of us can control. What separates us from them might not be very much, so why do we need to kill them as they jailed their victims? It is easy to kill, but not so easy to try to understand. This film hits an emotional level that the previous film did not. I am pleased that it ultimately was made. I am also pleased that the quality of the performances, the writing and most especially the direction, were so superb. Watch the scene where the farmer speaks only to Harper Lee and not Capote. It is an incredible monologue, but the circumstances are noted.
Writer-director Douglas McGrath's new film about Truman Capote and the
creation of his most famous book, "In Cold Blood," is full of
contradictions and contrasts when compared with its predecessor, the
2005 film "Capote," that covers the same five-year period. Perhaps this
is fitting. There may be some justice in the fact that these two filmic
accounts of how Capote researched material for his magnum opus disagree
significantly in emphasis and purported events.
After all, Capote used fictional methods to embellish - some might say falsify - his journalistic reportage on the murders of the Clutter family in Holcomb, Kansas, in 1959. If the screenplays for these two films tell differing stories of Capote's experience, does it matter if one is closer to the truth than the other? Or that we can't be sure - indeed, will never know - what actually occurred during many of the encounters between Capote, who was famous for fabricating yarns about his own life, and others out in Holcomb so long ago?
The films are each based on separate biographical accounts. "Capote" was adapted from Gerald Clarke's 1988 biography bearing the same title. "Infamous" is based on George Plimpton's 1997 book, "Truman Capote: In Which Various Friends, Enemies, Acquaintances and Detractors Recall His Turbulent Career," an account presented as a sequence of quotes from interviews Plimpton conducted with more than 150 people who knew Capote.
"Infamous" is far kinder to Capote than the earlier film, portraying him as quite clearly enamored of the killer Perry Smith (an ardor fully requited by Smith) and deeply anguished when Smith is executed. "Capote" depicts the author as more conniving, manipulative and disingenuous, willing to say or do anything to get Smith to spill his story, and withholding of possible interventions he - Capote - might have made to further delay or avert the executions of Smith and his accomplice, Dick Hickock.
In "Capote" the author's erotic attraction to Smith is more muted, hinted at, not acted upon. Indeed, "Infamous" is in general more explicit and direct in its portrayals, often more graphic if you will, than "Capote." Besides kisses and embraces between Capote and Smith, other scenes not covered in "Capote" include moments of violence when Smith virtually attacks Capote in his cell. We also witness the murders of the Clutters and Hickock's execution by hanging, including the protracted interval during which his body remains vertically suspended until he is finally declared dead by the attending physician.
There are other differences, for example, Capote's bid to establish rapport with the local Sheriff, Alvin Dewey, is depicted as much more problematic in "Infamous" than in "Capote." A plus for "Infamous" is its attention to Capote's relationships with a covey of New York society women known as his "swans," their adulation of him, his ability to coax them into sharing their secrets for his later use as gossip fodder. But, again, McGrath employs a graphic style to introduce us to these women, and several others in Capote's social circle, namely, the use of large white name titles as we first meet each, documentary style.
I find it impossible to resist comparing acting performances in the two productions. The more nuanced, oblique style of "Capote" is realized not only through its general avoidance of graphic scenes but in the greater subtlety of the two central actors' performances. In "Infamous," the English character actor Toby Jones physically resembles Capote more than does his counterpart in "Capote," Philip Seymour Hoffman. Both actors offer convincing personifications in voice and style. But I lean toward Hoffman's as the more complex, accomplished turn, characterized by critic Shawn Levy as "note-perfect." Levy goes on, "The wheezy laugh, the pain of work, the prying nature, the cold eye, the self-obsession, the ability to perform and ingratiate and wheedle - it's Capote you're watching up there "
The brilliant English actor Daniel Craig gives a forceful, indeed galvanizing, performance as the killer, Perry Smith. But I think his mercurial, intensely melodramatic interpretation of his character is less convincing than his counterpart in "Capote," Clifton Collins, Jr. Collins's Smith is more introverted, by turns chilling or vulnerable to be sure, but for the most part quietly opaque, subdued, soulfully melancholic. For me this depiction is the more compelling and believable.
Other key performances are well delivered in both films: Catherine Keener ("Capote") and Sandra Bullock ("Infamous") as Harper Lee, though I liked Ms. Bullock's turn better; Chris Cooper ("Capote") and Jeff Daniels ("Infamous") as Sheriff Dewey. Capote's "swans" in "Infamous" are delightfully played by Sigourney Weaver, Juliet Stevenson, Hope Davis and Isabella Rossellini.
So we have two versions of the story of Capote's adventures in Kansas: both strong films, well cast, worthwhile. I think "Capote" is the better film because of its more subtle approach and the performances of the two central actors. As for realism in the interpretation of Truman Capote's character, perhaps the two portrayals taken together triangulate on the "real" Capote, a complex, convoluted personality as worthy of our sympathy as our contempt. My grades: 8/10 (high B+) (Seen on 10/10/06)
Truman Capote may be unique among recent celebrities to have two
excellent films made about his life. Just a year after Phillip Seymour
Hoffman's mesmerizing performance in "Capote," Toby Jones does a fine,
if more expected, impersonation of the author of "In Cold Blood" and
"Breakfast at Tiffany's." With the razor sharp wit and effete
mannerisms more focused than they were in "Capote," Jones, in Douglas
McGrath's "Infamous," is a more vulnerable Truman and is unquestionably
in love with one of the Clutter family killers, Perry Smith. Although
ostensibly a drama, "Infamous" is replete with Capote's celebrated wit,
and the one-liners, which are often sexual in nature, are welcome
relief from the heavier scenes.
However, "Infamous" is at heart a love story, or rather two, love stories. The first romance is between Truman Capote and his coterie of largely female socialite friends, with whom he gossips and parties and self adulates. The second, much deeper love story, between Capote and Smith, begins as Capote explores Smith's background and family history. Although their relationship, which the film implies was more than platonic, develops within the confines of prison, the two men connect through similar personal tragedies in their childhoods. Smith, well played by Daniel Craig, was at least bisexual or even gay, according to McGrath's screenplay. Although a subliminal connection between the two killers was suggested in both the films "In Cold Blood" and "Capote," in this film Dick Hickock, Smith's partner in the Clutter killings, recognizes Perry's orientation and taunts him with it.
Although a bevy of well-known performers threatens to undercut the realism of the drama with a game of "isn't that so and so?," the acting rises above star cameos and blends seamlessly into the whole. In fact, the familiar faces aid in maintaining recognition of the parade of celebrities, such as Babs Paley, Gore Vidal, and Harper Lee that surrounded Capote in life. Borrowing a technique from Warren Beatty's "Reds," McGrath effectively uses witnesses that talk to the camera about Truman as though being interviewed at some later date. Surprisingly, these interview segments do not interrupt the flow of the drama and enhance rather than detract from the film's power.
And powerful it is. Although the execution scenes have been filmed twice before, Truman's parting from the killers and the actual hangings remain almost unbearable to watch. Although two films have preceded this one and related essentially the same story, "Infamous" stands as a worthy addition to what is now a trilogy on the Clutter family murders (1967's "In Cold Blood," 2005's "Capote," 2006's "Infamous"). Surprisingly, each film is equally engrossing and brings its own viewpoint to the story. Like different facets of a prism or a three-film version of "Rashomon," the tale of Truman Capote's reportage of the murders retains its fascination and the enigma of Capote's relationship with the killers. Rarely have three such powerful, outstanding films been made from the same subject matter.
Infamous is by far the better movie about Truman Capote. I saw this film in Venice where the audience gave it a 15 minute standing ovation. There is a lot that is brilliant about this film. The cast is perfect. This film shows us more characters than the previous movie and each is played beautifully by a highly competent actor. INFAMOUS is one of the most effective and unique films I have seen in a long time. It treats its' subject with humor but also with emotional depth. I was moved by Truman's journey. His relationship with Perry Smith is complex and heartbreaking. Daniel Craig rides a thin line between sympathetic and dangerous. He is a truly gifted artist. Doug McGrath's film-making is brave and true to itself in every way. Toby Jones is the perfect Truman. I was unfamiliar with him as an actor and totally surprised by his amazing, seamless performance. I'm telling you, Toby Jones is Oscar material.
It could be a work of fiction. Just like the factual novel of Truman Capote. For maximum enjoyment one should forget last years "Capote". Like so many other things in modern pop culture the same stories can be told countless times, the versions vary but at its center there is a truth that its stranger than fiction. Truman Capote is like an alien visiting our planet, his intellect allows him to see beyond our limitations and his need to belong to be accepted transforms him into one of the greatest manipulators of all time. Toby Jones is extraordinary. There is no performance other that Capote's own daily performance to charm and seduce everyone who has anything he needs. He seems him quiver when his rapport with Perry King takes unexpected erotic turns. There is real sexual tension in their scenes together. I believed it, Perry King I mean, I believe that he felt compelled and attracted by this tiny,famous,alien celebrity. Daniel Craig is superb and his character has the power to get under our skin without betraying the brutal side of his nature. What Capote felt is another story. He lies so blatantly, so beautifully that it's impossible to tell, maybe even Capote himself couldn't tell. Doug McGrath's version of the events is funnier, more entertaining and certainly more theatrical that last year's version that I've advised you to forget - The advise is heartfelt but difficult to put into practice - Sandra Bullock, Juliet Stevenson, Sigourney Weaver and Isabella Rossellini contribute to the fun and to the theatrical feel of "Infamous" If you're a sucker for pop culture and who isn't? Run to see it.
Forget Capote! This film blows Bennett Miller's version out of the water. Not to take anything away from the Hoffman performance, but Toby Jones is incredible as the late Truman Capote making me understand his pain and love and guilt for Perry Smith and his demise. This was all accomplished from a legitimately real place, not some "pull-my-heartstrings-Ron-Howard- music-swells" sort of way. The scene after he returns from his liason with Perry and the shift of emotions we see in Jones' face is reminiscent of Diane Lane's "train sequence" in Unfaithful. Incredible. And Sandra Bullock...where have you been hiding? Please Academy, do not be afraid to honor this film so close to its predecessor.
"There will be time to murder and create." T.S. Eliot's Prufrock
Truman Capote described murderer Perry Smith as between the "tender and the terrible." Such may be said about writer/director Douglas McGrath's superior Infamous, a tale of Truman Capote's (Toby Jones) love affair with his innovative novelization, In Cold Blood, and its protagonist,Perry Smith (Daniel Graig). The tender is Capote's love of his female friends, especially Harper Lee (Sandra Bullock) and Smith (DanielCraig), and the terrible slaughter of the Kansas farm family in 1959 by Smith and friend Dick Hickock (Lee Pace).
Inevitable as accusing Toby Jones of only imitating Capote is the comparison with Philip Seymour Hoffman's Oscar performance of the titular author in Capote (1955). Jones's turn is more complex than Hoffman's, alternating between Capote's imaginative connection with the crime and his growing respect, even love, for Smith. In fact, the well-known love between the men is avoided in Capote but highlighted in Infamous.
I was hooked in the first sequence, when Gwyneth Paltrow as Peggy Lee sings "What is this thing called love?" and breaks down in apparent awareness of her own losses. The song, perfect for the themes of the film, and the film's score carry a melancholy with them that McGrath captures in Tru's constantly frustrated search for truth and love and Lee's inability to pen another novel after her Pulitzer-Prize-winning To Kill a Mockingbird. For that matter, Capote never completes a significant piece after that himself.
Last year's Capote seemed centered on the conflict in Truman over whether or not he was exploiting Smith to get a story and then never fully engaging a campaign to free them. This year's Infamous (a poor title regardless of it double artistic appropriateness) is more interested in Truman's struggle to write a new kind of fiction (docudrama) and his true affection for Smith. Infamous fleshes out the story and the fabulous artist whose "Breakfast at Tiffany's" and "In Cold Blood" are cultural staples of 20th century life.
Infamous has a difficult comparison with the earlier "Capote." Still it is a different view of the same story and characters and is written with more emphasis on the perspectives of those who knew, or thought they knew, Capote. Toby Jones may not fully match the nuanced performance of Philip Seymour Hoffman but he does, possibly, a better imitation of Capote. Infamous has a better known cast of supporting players and they do a creditable job. Sandra Bullock's Harper Lee isn't the quite same as that portrayed so well by Catherine Keener in "Capote" but her character blends perfectly with the tone of "Infamous." Daniel Craig adds another fine acting turn as the "In Cold Blood" killer who receives the most attention. Even Gwyneth Paltrow makes an excellent impression in a brief opening scene as, apparently, singer Peggy Lee. (In the showing I saw, she was introduced as "Kitty Dean???") I wondered why another version of this story was filmed and it may not do well after the success of "Capote" but I was surprisingly entertained and intrigued by this movie.
I just saw this movie at the Venice Film Festival. I pretty liked it. It's not a masterpiece and sometimes it's hard to not compare with the other "Capote" movie. This one, anyhow, is funnier than the other one and some director's choices are interesting. The cast is terrific (from Toby Jones to a surprising Sandra Bullock, to the enjoyable female supportings to Lee Pace and Daniel Craig) and the technical credits are more than stellar. The screenplay sometimes is a little clichéd but nothing disturbing. The 5-minute cheeres at the end of the screening (with Bullock, Jones, McGrath, Toniolo among others in attendance) proves I was not the only one who liked it.
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