Sunday, December 10, 2006


2005, US, directed by Bennett Miller

Capote doesn't attempt to be a comprehensive biopic of its title character, focusing almost exclusively on the period of the author's life devoted to the creation of his best-known work, In Cold Blood, which took him away from his familiar New York social element to the flatlands of Kansas. In this telling, the creation of his 'non-fiction novel' extracts a toll so heavy that it explains his later decline as a writer, while the film uses that process to reveal Capote as a manipulative, sometimes outright deceitful, individual who is often incapable of relativising his own problems despite the terrible series of events that he has set out to chronicle. In choosing to focus on Capote's relationship with Perry Smith - a relationship cultivated to assist in the book's creation - the film gives short shrift to the victims of Smith's (and partner Hickok's) crime; indeed, the film goes from killings to sentencing within 35 minutes, and much of the remainder of the running time takes place in various jail cells. That quibble aside, director Miller does a fine job of compressing events without compromising his eye for the finer details, and without ever yielding to the temptations of hagiography inherent in chronicling (part of) the life of a fascinating, conflicted writer; the painterly Midwestern landscapes also function as arresting intertitles. Philip Seymour Hoffman perfectly captures Capote's mannerisms without allowing his performance to become a distraction: within a few minutes, I'd almost forgotten who was playing the lead as he vanished into the character, allowing the author himself, and his manifest failings, to steal the limelight - as was his wont.

1 comment:

Lesley said...

Brilliant. Philip Seymour Hoffmann is a chameleon.


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