CW Capote.jpg
Take an honest look at darkness. Behold its nuance.

I remember his manic performances, high-pitched voice, boozy outrageousness on television, and always wondered what the deal was with Truman Capote. The film “Capote” fills in some of the gaps.

“On Nov. 15, 1959, Truman Capote noticed a news item about four members of a Kansas farm family who were shot-gunned to death. He telephoned William Shawn, editor of The New Yorker, wondering if Shawn would be interested in an article about the murders. Later in his life, Capote said that if he had known what would happen as a result of this impulse, he would not have stopped in Holcomb, Kan., but would have kept right on going ‘like a bat out of hell.'”

The film, “Capote” is unflinching truth telling at its best. Truman Capote and murderer Perry Smith manipulate each other towards their own purposes, and both are destroyed in the end. Capote wanted the fame Perry’s mysterious, brooding character offered, and Perry wanted to exploit Capote’s notoriety and sympathies as a way of getting better representation and perhaps an acquittal. (Capote had already written “Breakfast at Tiffany’s” and partied with the rich and famous). In the end, Perry needs new representation and Capote needs Perry’s appeals to end so he can get the book finished and into bookstores. Viewers rightly wonder whose blood is coldest.

Capote’s ability to humanize Perry is explained by his awareness of their similarities. “It is as if we were raised in the same house and one day Perry stood up and walked out the back door and I walked out the front.” After writing “In Cold Blood,” Capote never wrote another full-length book. Having aspired to be the most influential writer of his day, he ultimately got what he sought, never to recover. The epitaph of his final and unfinished work provided an eerie explanation for Capote’s legendary descent into booze; “more tears are shed for answered prayers than unanswered ones.”

Phillip Seymour Hoffman IS Capote with a nuanced, multi-layered performance; an academy award nomination is deserved.

Roger Ebert correctly observes, “Capote” is a film of uncommon strength and insight, about a man whose great achievement requires the surrender of his self-respect. Philip Seymour Hoffman’s precise, uncanny performance as Capote doesn’t imitate the author so much as channel him, as a man whose peculiarities mask great intelligence and deep wounds.” William Arnold of the Seattle PI notes, “It has to be one of the most eerie, morbidly absorbing and psychologically compelling movies ever made about a writer in the agonizing process of creating an important piece of literature.”

Take an honest look at darkness and behold its nuance.

Truman Capote: Philip Seymour Hoffman
Harper Lee: Catherine Keener
Perry Smith: Clifton Collins Jr.
Alvin Dewey: Chris Cooper
Jack Dunphy: Bruce Greenwood
William Shawn: Bob Balaban
Dick Hickock: Mark Pellegrino

Sony Pictures Classics presents a film directed by Bennett Miller. Written by Dan Futterman. Based on the book Capote by Gerald Clarke. Running time: 114 minutes. Rated R (for some violent images and brief strong language).

Yours for the pursuit of God in the company of friends, Dick Staub.

PS. And remember, “these are the best of times and the worst of times, but they are the only times we have.” (For Now).

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    Posted in Staublog in October 31, 2005 by | No Comments »

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