Details: (M), 114 mins, United States, English
Synopsis: Capote focuses on the six-year period during In Cold Blood novellist Truman Capote's life when he investigated the four Clutter family murders. The film details how the writer and his assistant, Harper Lee (Catherine Keener), uncovered information relating to the case which lead to a magazine article becoming a full-length book.
Compelling film rises above traditional biopics.
Phillip Seymour Hoffman is picking up swags of awards for his role in Capote, including Best Actor at the BAFTA's, Screen Actor's Guild Awards and a best actor nomination at the Oscars. He plays author, Truman Capote, who found fame with his novel, Breakfast at Tiffany's and then notoriety, for his true crime novel, In Cold Blood, a book that revolutionised journalism. In it, Truman Capote employed the writing style of fiction to report on real events, an approach now commonplace in magazines articles and books – the 'non fiction novel'.
Hoffman's childhood friends bring the story to the screen. They are Director Bennett Miller and screenwriter, Dan Futterman, who adapted the biography of Truman Capote by Gerald Clarke. In 1959, Truman Capote became fascinated by the brutal murders of four members of the Clutter family in Holcomb, Kansas by Perry Smith and Richard Hickock. He was commissioned to write an article for The New Yorker, to investigate how the murders affected the town and was keen to use the story to broaden the confines of journalism. Joined by author, Nelle Harper Lee (Catherine Keener), who was just about to publish her own novel, To Kill A Mockingbird, Truman boarded a train to Kansas to interview the killers, the residents of Holcomb and the local police. With his shrill voice and supercilious manner, Capote needed the more sympathetic Lee, to act as a broker between the township and himself, to help him get an 'in' with the community. It took a long time for his distinct, somewhat abrasive Manhattan personality, to be embraced by the community and therefore Lee was essential.
Miller's film meticulously recreates that first visit to Holcomb and the six long years that followed. Capote gradually got to know the killers', especially the quieter, more sensitive of the two murderers, Perry Smith (Clifton Collins Jnr.), who Capote thought, shared similarities with himself. They wrote letters to each other and over time, Truman slowly convinced Perry to open up about the night of the killings. Perry's language and life history, was a goldmine of material and Capote became his confessor and a kind of friend ' but only so far as it suited his own literary needs. When Truman is called on to show real support, he wishes that the execution would come sooner, so he could finish his book.
This superbly crafted film is beautifully directed by Bennett Miller and intelligently written by Dan Futterman. They have dispensed with all the unnecessary back-story normally found in biopics, keeping you hooked by focusing on the most intense period of Capote's life. Capote's duplicity and self-absorption is repellent – as he finds opportunity in tragedy, but it's also enthralling and Hoffman's performance is extraordinary, as he inhabits the writer's skin. Hoffman perfectly captures Capote's voice, mannerisms and attitude, but delivers something far more nuanced than a simple impersonation. His Capote is a flawed flesh and blood character and it's a wonderful piece of acting.
This film rise above traditional biopics, because it makes no attempt to capture the whole life of its main character, the peaks and the lows ' like Ray, or The Life and Death Peter Sellers. As a result Capote makes a bigger impression, because it is more than a film just about a man's life, it is one of the most potent films about writing I've seen. Questions arise that concern any journalist about how close you can get your subjects and about the morality of manipulating a subject, in order to gain fame. It offers an insiders' perspective on what fuels an author, painting a portrait of a very complex man.
Watch Films Online
Films on SBS TV
SBS Film Guide to...
Celebrate Australian filmmaking with this home-grown season. Starts May 25.
A month of movies with an edge. Saturday nights in April.