Skip to main content

Well, he hasn’t actually written a word of it yet. But he says, it’s the non-fiction book of the decade.

Capote
(2005)

(SPOILERS) Another (relatively) recent Best Picture Oscar nominee I missed first time round, and then subsequently didn’t really feel very compelled to chase up. Perhaps it was the vying Truman Capote pics (I’ve also yet to see Infamous) putting me off, or possibly just being underwhelmed by everything Oscar that year (which hasn’t changed). I can certainly see why the late Philip Seymour Hoffman received the Best Actor award for Capote, though, since the eccentrically mannered title character is precisely the kind of studied, showy performance the Academy laps up.

Hoffman duly holds the attention, as does Catherine Keener, contrastingly underplaying as Nelle Harper Lee. “And how’d you like the movie, Truman?” she asks at a screening of To Kill A Mockingbird, after the perma-self-absorbed Capote, sat drinking alone at the bar, has finished a self-indulgent outpouring about how Death Row inmates’ appeals are all about him: “It’s torture. They’re torturing me”.

But Capote’s actual content, focusing on Truman’s cold-blooded manipulation (and then shunning) of murderers Smith and Hickock in pursuit his story and resultant book, rather than the acts and aftermath themselves, feels as distracted as its title character. Perhaps that’s by necessity, and it would be pointless to retread the ground of In Cold Blood – already made into an acclaimed documentary-style feature by Richard Brooks a year after the novel was published – but I expected to find Capote, the natural raconteur, transfixing, rather than mildly diverting.

That may be part and parcel of director Bennett Miller’s low-key approach, which can work superbly (Moneyball) or leave results feeling somehow lacking (Foxcatcher, like Capote written by actor friend Dan Futterman). The proceedings are chock full of examples of Truman twisting events to his advantage or outright lying when it suits him (or unconvincingly telling himself lies). But in his close relationship with Clifton Collins Jr’s Perry Smith (who eventually admitted to the killings), there is initially an effective blurring of lines between his professed empathy for and close connection with his subject; his partner Jack Dunphy, played by Bruce Greenwood, is convinced Capote is in love with him. Yet Truman’s inherently over-dramatising nature manufactures such circumstances around him, exemplified by his melodramatic protesting of Smith’s continuing attempts to contact him.

Later, Capote plies Smith with bare-faced lies, both minor (that the title for In Cold Blood didn’t come from him, and wasn’t even finalised) and major (“I did everything I could. I truly did” he protests, having done absolutely nothing to help their appeal). And so one concludes that his sociopathic tendencies, feeling nothing for anyone but for himself, evidence the strongest link with the man towards whom he professes empathy (as Capote analogises, he went out of the front of the house “they lived in” while Smith went out of the back, and their paths duly lead where they did).

Ultimately, I felt Miller was probably the wrong director for Capote; the greater achievement of telling this story would have been to make the viewer complicit with Capote’s actions, repelled by his behaviour yet willing him to succeed for all his base motives. The postscript simplistically implies Truman’s failure to complete another novel following In Cold Blood was a consequence of his behaviour in respect of the case, yet this Capote has been characterised by blithe bluntness (announcing to Chris Cooper’s detective he has no interest in who committed the crimes), self-glorification (permanently “factualising” the fiction of their own life story), procrastination and nascent alcoholism throughout. 


Agree? Disagree? Mildly or vehemently? Let me know in the comments below.

Comments

Popular posts from this blog

He’s probably paranoid, high-strung, doesn’t like daylight. You know, has a lot of crumbs in his beard, if he has a beard.

Godzilla vs. Kong (2021) (SPOILERS) I’d like to report I had a blast with Godzilla vs. Kong . It’s lighter on its oversized, city-stomping feet than its slog of a MonsterVerse predecessor, Godzilla: King of the Monsters , and there are flashes of visual inspiration along with several engaging core ideas (which, to be fair, the series had already laid the seeds for). But this sequel still stumbles in its chief task: assembling an engaging, lively story that successfully integrates both tiny humans and towering titans.

It's Dark Age, by Jupiter!

The Dig (2021) (SPOILERS) An account of the greatest archaeological find Britain would know until Professor Horner opened the barrow at Devil’s End. And should you scoff at such “ fiction ”, that’s nothing on this adaptation of John Preston’s 2007 novel concerning the Sutton Hoo excavations of the late 1930s. The Dig , as is the onus of any compelling fictional account, takes liberties with the source material, but the erring from the straight and narrow in this case is less an issue than the shift in focus from characters and elements successfully established during the first hour.

You stink, my friend.

Mulan (2020) (SPOILERS) Let that be a lesson to Disney. It’s a fool’s errand to try and beat the Chinese at their own game, no matter how painstakingly respectful – or rather, pandering – you are. Indeed, Mulan ’s abysmal $40m box office take in the country – where it did get a proper release, so no plandemic excuses can be cited – feels like a direct rebuke; don’t try and tell us how to suck eggs. There’s an additional explanation too, of course. That Mulan sucks.

Our "Bullshit!" team has unearthed spectacular new evidence, which suggests, that Jack the Ripper was, in fact, the Loch Ness Monster.

Amazon Women on the Moon (1987) Cheeseburger Film Sandwich . Apparently, that’s what the French call Amazon Women on the Moon . Except that it probably sounds a little more elegant, since they’d be saying it in French (I hope so, anyway). Given the title, it should be no surprise that it is regarded as a sequel to Kentucky Fried Movie . Which, in some respects, it is. John Landis originally planned to direct the whole of Amazon Women himself, but brought in other directors due to scheduling issues. The finished film is as much of a mess as Kentucky Fried Movie , arrayed with more miss sketches than hit ones, although it’s decidedly less crude and haphazard than the earlier picture. Some have attempted to reclaim Amazon Women as a dazzling satire on TV’s takeover of our lives, but that’s stretching it. There is a fair bit of satire in there, but the filmmakers were just trying to be funny; there’s no polemic or express commentary. But even on such moderate t

Roswell was a smokescreen, we've had a half a dozen better salvage operations.

The X-Files 1.24: The Erlenmeyer Flask The Erlenmeyer Flask makes for a fast-paced, tense and eventful ride, but does it make any sense? That less than mattered at the time, but revisiting the mythology arc (for probably the fourth or fifth time) reveals increasingly tenuous internal coherence as the various conspiracy elements begin to pile up and the situations become ever-more convoluted. This will become the Chris Carter’s signature: don’t examine the details too closely, go with the flow. Trust Chris implicitly.

UFO IN MOSSINGHAM?

A Shaun the Sheep Movie: Farmageddon (2020) (SPOILERS) One might reasonably suggest the recourse of the ailing or desperate franchise is to resort, seemingly out of nowhere, to space aliens. Even Police Academy didn’t go that far (to Moscow, yes, but not to space). Perhaps animators think kids have no skills of discernment and will swallow any old sugar-coated crap. Perhaps they don’t, and they will. Ice Age had been enjoying absurd success until Collision Course sent Scrat spinning into the cosmos and grosses tumbled. Shaun the Sheep has been around for a quarter of a century, but this is only his second movie outing and already he’s pulling an E.T. on us. Of course, this may all be part of the grand scheme, and Nick Park is simply doing his bit to familiarise the tots in time for Project Blue Beam.

Wow. Asteroids are made of farts. Okay. I got it.

Greenland (2020) (SPOILERS) Global terror porn for overpopulation adherents as Gerard Butler and his family do their darnedest to reach the safety of a bunker in the titular country in the face of an imminent comet impact. Basically, what if 2012 were played straight? These things come to test cinemas in cycles, of course. Sean Connery struggled with a duff rug and a stack of mud in Meteor , while Deep Impact plumbed for another dread comet and Armageddon an asteroid. The former, owing to the combined forces of Bruce Joel Rubin and Michael Tolkin, was a – relatively – more meditative fare. The latter was directed by Michael Bay. And then there’s Roland Emmerich, who having hoisted a big freeze on us in The Day After Tomorrow then wreaked a relatively original source of devastation in the form of 2012 ’s overheating Earth’s core. Greenland , meanwhile, is pretty much what you’d expect from the director of Angel Has Fallen .

Careful how much boat you’re eating.

Onward (2020) (SPOILERS) Pixar’s Bright , or thereabouts. The interesting thing – perhaps the only interesting thing – about Onward is that it’s almost indiscernible from a DreamWorks Animation effort, where once they cocked a snook at such cheap-seats fare, seeing themselves as better class of animation house altogether. Just about everything in Onward is shamelessly derivative, from the Harry Potter /fantasy genre cash-in to the use of the standard Pixar formula whereby any scenario remotely eccentric or exotic is buried beneath the banal signifiers of modern society: because anything you can imagine must be dragged down to tangible everyday reference points or kids won’t be able to assimilate it. And then there’s the choice of lead voices, in-Disney star-slaves Chris Pratt and Tom Holland.

By heaven, I’d thrash the life out of you… if I didn’t have to read the Nine O’Clock News.

The Green Man (1956) (SPOILERS) The Green movie from Launder and Gilliat starring Alastair Sim that isn’t Green for Danger. Which is to say, The Green Man can’t quite scale the heady heights of that decade-earlier murder mystery triumph, but neither is it any slouch. Sim is the antagonist this time – albeit a very affable, Sim-ish one – and his sometime protégée, a young George Cole, the hero. If the plot is entirely absurd, Robert Day’s movie wastes no time probing such insufficiencies, ensuring it is very funny, lively and beautifully performed.

Well, I’ll be damned. It’s the gentleman guppy.

Waterworld (1995) (SPOILERS) The production and budgetary woes of “ Kevin’s Gate ” will forever overshadow the movie’s content (and while it may have been the most expensive movie ever to that point – adjusted for inflation, it seems only Cleopatra came close – it has since turned a profit). However, should you somehow manage to avoid the distraction of those legendary problems, the real qualitative concerns are sure to come sailing over the cognitive horizon eventually; Waterworld is just so damned derivative. It’s a seafaring Mad Max. Peter Rader, who first came up with the idea in 1986, admitted as much. David Twohy, who later came aboard, also cited Mad Max 2 ; that kind of rip-off aspect – Jaws birthing Piranha – makes it unsurprising Waterworld was once under consideration by Roger Corman (he couldn’t cost it cheaply enough). Ultimately, there’s never a sufficient sense the movie has managed to become its own thing. Which is a bummer, because it’s frequently quite good fun.