‘Capote’ a glimpse of a writer’s labor
I had never placed Truman Capote as a squawky, effeminate alcoholic.While reading “In Cold Blood,” one marvels at the research-based relationship the author establishes with his subjects.The subjects, of course, are two murderers who kill a family in a small town in Kansas in the 1950s. Their motives, as Truman Capote discovers after years of discussion with the men, could be described as nothing more or less than cold-blooded.Capote, from the portrait in the film, is certainly not what one envisions when reading “In Cold Blood.”
Philip Seymour Hoffman likely had some trouble shedding his larynx-torturing, falsetto voice after the making of “Capote.” His Oscar-winning performance opened the door into a personality that many of us, even those long-familiar with his name, had no idea about.While all the action in the film takes place before the plot begins, “Capote” has a suspenseful, enrapturing quality throughout.Capote is the life of the party, surrounded at cocktail dinners by a transfixed, bemused audience, inciting laughter by crude remarks delivered in his distinctive soprano.On a whim, he decides he wants to write an article for “The New Yorker” about a murder he hears about – a family of four killed in their farmhouse in a hapless little town in Kansas.Capote packs up with his designer scarf and trench coat, hops on a train with his friend Harper Lee, who, while Capote spends years researching his article-turned-nonfiction book, writes “To Kill a Mocking Bird.”
The pair are soon welcomed into the home of Kansas investigator Alvin Dewey (Chris Cooper), whose wife is a “Breakfast at Tiffany’s” fan, the novel which was, at the time, Capote’s most famous work.As Capote admittedly isn’t an automatic invite into the circle of trust among friends of the murdered Clutter family, Lee does a helpful job of getting the teenage friends of the family to open up.Capote, however, is the first to make contact with the captive murderers, particularly Perry Smith. As the men are scheduled to hang in six weeks after their trial, Capote arranges a new lawyer for them, and the criminals are kept in a state of appeals, with hope of further legal system loopholes on the horizon.The glimpse into Capote’s life is somewhat veiled, although we see clearly that the guy drinks a lot and that he has a more than “friend and fellow writer” relationship with author Jack Dunphy, who wrote his own nonfiction work – “Dear Genius: A Memoir of My Life with Truman Capote,” in 1987.
For three years, Capote maintains a relationship with Smith, and while discovering many intriguing facts about the murderer’s childhood and upbringing, Capote has difficulty persuading Smith to recount the fateful night at the Clutter house.”Capote” is largely a film about dialogue, but there is something about the characters that creates an enigma that keeps ones’ eyes pasted to the screen. The depiction of one of America’s most famed authors is not complete, but the film gives a clear glimpse of what he goes through gathering material for one of the most significant nonfiction stories ever written. “Capote” is a film about waiting, and suggests the toll that such unknown anticipation can do to a writer.Vail, Colorado
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