Saturday, April 08, 2006


Capote, the movie, got mixed reviews overall (this is one of the more positive) - I thought it was superb and probably the best movie I have seen this year. The In Cold Blood non-fiction novel and (the original) movie describe the brutal multiple-murder of an innocent family by a pair of drifting no-hopers that yields $50. A wikipedia entry describes the history. Truman Capote established himself as an important US writer by his dramatic depiction of this. Capote, the movie, describes how he sourced the novel by getting one of the killers to open up to him. Philip Seymour Hoffman who plays Capote is brilliant as the openly gay, self-absorbed author.

Indeed writing In Cold Blood becomes an obsession for its author. Capote even offers to get the killers an appeal after they are convicted to hang but he is concerned with himself not the killers. He lies, cajoles and fools himself as he toils over the book. While he pretends to emphasise with one of the killers he rather callously tells others that he hopes their appeals will fail so he can finish the work off. After they do hang its not even clear if the emotion he does display is compassion or self-obsession again. In real life Truman Capote became addicted to drugs and alcohol after the executions and never completed another book.

The movie has a documentary feel to it, sticking to facts and avoiding sensation and preachiness. It offers a view of the detached world of journalism and the poetic license seen in creative non-fiction and fictional biographies so prevalent today. In the original In Cold Blood movie I found myself focusing sympathies on the terribly evil killers – they were stupid psychopaths who had no compassion and that has always seemed something tragic to me. In Capote I felt the same emotion – although it was compounded by feelings for the central character, Capote himself, who is intellectually detached and psychopathic in a different way. The impact of the terrible events perhaps gets to him in the end but the lies he tells to the killers and the lack of genuine empathy for those killed and those affected by the killings shows he is mainly after the great ‘Gold Mine’ story.

And it is the compelling emotional impact of this psychological confusion that creates what for me is a great movie. Hoffman is particularly brilliant as Capote.

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