I will start off by saying I feel slightly under qualified to write about Capote. I haven’t watched or read any of his work, indeed I haven’t even read ‘In Cold Blood’ which the writing of is the focus of this film. So, despite that semi embarrassing fact let me tell you about Capote and why Bennett Miller direction of this film shows he is star and allows me to praise one of the greatest actors of his or indeed of any generation Phillip Seymour Hoffman.
Capote was based on the book by Gerald Clarke and adapted by Dan Futterman for the screen. As mentioned above it chronicles Truman Capote’s investigation in to the murder of the Clutter family by Perry Smith (Clifton Collins Jr.) and Richard “Dick” Hickock (Mark Pellegrino) this investigation eventually lead to the publication of one of the most famous novels in American history ‘In Cold Blood’. This film though is anything but a dry investigation into the writing of a famous book. It follows the emotional turmoil of Capote who was nearly broken by the writing of the novel and became a funtcition alcoholic. Who couldn’t even take joy in the success of his close friend ‘Harper Lee’ (Catherine Keener) when she found success with ‘To Kill a Mockingbird’ (one of my favourite films of all time, again embarrassingly haven’t read the book). Capote while writing the article which eventually became In Cold Blood became increasingly attached to one of the accused Perry Smith. Finding him interesting, well spoken, remorseful and calm. Capote struggled to put this man together with the one who had in all likelihood brutally murder four people. Capote went as far as to organise a proper Lawyer to defend Perry Smith, but even when he is doing this seemingly noble action there is a hint of selfishness in everything he does. Because even then he may only be keeping Smith from his execution to make sure he got the whole story out of Smith and not because he ever believed he was innocent.
Phillip Seymour Hoffman deservedly one the Oscar for his portrayal of Truman Capote. Everything about his performance is extraordinary but particularly his voice. Hoffman’s voice, below I have left two clips from Paul Thomas Anderson’s wonderful movie ‘The Master’ which Hoffman is equally amazing in and then directly below his voice in Capote maybe because I know nothing about acting or voice control, but it is unbelievable to me that both voices come from the same person.
It is possible I would say to become irritated by Capote’s voice however I think after about ten minutes you forget all about it and you simple just marvel at the masterclass of acting by the much-missed Phillip Seymour Hoffman.
Capote was the first fiction feature length film by Bennett Miller who was nominated for an Oscar for his work but ultimately beaten to the prize by Ang Lee’s Brokeback Mountain. Miller has since directed Moneyball and Foxcatcher both of which I would highly recommend. All three of his films I think are incredible intense, I think most of this intensity comes from the silence in his films. The lack of music where almost every other director would have a score is intense and makes his films seem far more real. Out of the five movies he has directed so far two have been documentaries and three have been inspired or a strong bases in reality. So the lack of music in most of his films really works, it will be interesting to see what he does with ‘A Christmas Carol’ which he has been slated on to direct, his first entirely fictional film. Miller directs Capote with the slightest of touches, I don’t think anyone ever says to Capote that he has a drinking problem but you never see him without a drink particularly as the film moves along and his steady mental decline seems to coincide with the increased alcohol consumption. This technique of show don’t tell is something most directors can learn from, even good directors can fall into this trap (I am looking at you Ron Howard). Any of the many encounters between Capote and Smith are worth the price of admission alone, both Hoffman and Collins Jr. are electrifying when they are on screen together and if it was just those two shooting the breeze for two hours I am sure the movie would have flown by. Capote is an intense film but worth your time.
Thank you anyone who has bothered to read this, feel free to get in touch