Friday, February 08, 2008

20. Capote (Bennett Miller, 2005).

Yep, I've finally gotten round to posting about one of the damned films! :D

January 2006 was a very happy time for me. For Christmas, I’d gotten one of those lovely Cineworld passes that allowed me to watch however movies I wanted in the year. Furthermore, the woman who had put my card together had also kindly done this age ID card that had my date of birth on, to verify that I was 15. (That Christmas, I had tried to buy Dead Man Walking and Desperate Housewives from Virgin Megastores and they wouldn’t let me, leading me to get really paranoid whenever trying to see a film that I was actually legally old enough to see.)

The first film I saw with my ticket was King Kong, which, though I’m as keen on now (it’s still a solid B+ movie), was absolutely terrific to watch in a huge cinema with surround sound all around. Several days later I went to the cinema and had my heart broken with Brokeback Mountain. In between, I saw a couple of insubstantial movies. Then I saw Capote.

The reason I’m giving you this life story is because my blog began on the 23rd February, a little too late to catch the Oscar-buzzing wave (the Oscars were on the 5th March). But Brokeback Mountain and Capote were the two masterpieces of 2005 that inspired me to get writing, to get it put up online and to try and force other people to read it.

Capote is a biopic about the flamboyant and egotistical author who, in 1966, shot to fame thanks to his sensational "non-fiction novel" In Cold Blood, which charts the murder of an innocent Kansas family by the criminals Perry Smith and Dick Hickock. In writing an account of the novel and the criminals behind it, he brings with him long-suffering friend Harper Lee (played by Catherine Keener). And after several meetings with the brutish Hickock and the more quiet, troubled Perry Smith, he realises that he’s developing feelings for his subject.

Capote is one of the best depictions of how an artist has to “suffer” for their art that I’ve ever seen. Bennett Miller and Dan Futterman (both total babes, by the way) don’t seek out to deify Truman Capote in any way – they just present him as the selfish, attention-seeking bitch that he was. In one scene, fresh off the success of To Kill a Mockingbird, Harper Lee sidles up to Truman, her face bright with happiness. He, clearly jealous of seeing her in the limelight for once, refuses to give any praise about her book. This was the type of man he was; a society darling, flashy to the core, and utterly self-absorbed.

Yet Truman sees something in Perry Smith that piques his interest in his topic. Calm and sensitive, Perry Smith is by far the more interesting of the two, and Capote develops an emotional connection to him. The scenes in which Capote probes his subject are my favourite in the film, you get to see the mind that ticks behind those oversized glasses and irritating drawl of a voice, and Clifton Collins Jr is terrific in conveying years of parental neglect and poor upbringing that resulted in damaged – but still talented individual. That he didn’t get any major award recognition for his performance is a travesty.

But of course, it’s impossible to mention Capote without immediately considering Philip Seymour Hoffman’s performance alongside it. Standing crouched down in order to convey Capote’s physical shortness, Hoffman also gets the larger-than-life attributes that made him the celebrity he is. But, most importantly, he manages to convey a flawed performer who’s soul is not as black as well all think. Of all films, I did not expect myself to be crying in a literary biopic, but that’s what “I did all I could” reduced me to.

And that’s it really. I really recommend Capote, as a masterclass in how to act by Philip Seymour Hoffman, as a slow-but-worthwhile plot burner, and as a provocative documentary-style look at writers and why they do what they do.


Monkey said...

is your new profile pic a joke?

and don't reply with just "bung"

Banana Raccoon said...

Sowwie. It was a pretty crappy image, I'll admit, and everyone'll think I'm a Tottenham fan!

Gareth Bale is lovely though. And Robbie Keane.