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.
Philip Seymour Hoffman,
Clifton Collins Jr.,
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On November 16, 1959, Truman Capote reads about the murder of a Kansas family. There are no suspects. With Harper Lee, he visits the town: he wants to write about their response. First he must get locals to talk, then, after arrests, he must gain access to the prisoners. One talks constantly; the other, Perry Smith, says little. Capote is implacable, wanting the story, believing this book will establish a new form of reportage: he must figure out what Perry wants. Their relationship becomes something more than writer and character: Perry killed in cold blood, the state will execute him in cold blood; does Capote get his story through cold calculation, or is there a price for him to pay?Written by
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.
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