In November 1959, writer Truman Capote (Philip Seymour Hoffman), reads of the murders of four members of a farm family, the Clutters, in Holcomb, Kansas. Intrigued, he convinces The New Yorker magazine to give him an assignment. Accompanying him is his friend and research assistant Harper Lee (Catherine Keener), whose book To Kill a Mockingbird is about to be published. Capote wins the trust of the locals, notably Alvin Dewey (Chris Cooper), the agent who is leading the hunt for the killers. Caught in Las Vegas, the killers, Perry Smith (Clifton Collins Jr.) and Dick Hickock (Mark Pellegrino), are tried, convicted and sentenced to die. Capote visits them in jail. As he gets to know them, especially Smith, he realizes that the magazine article has grown into a book, eventually titled In Cold Blood, a book that could have an enormous impact on literature.
Review by Andrew L. Urban:
Capote is both revelatory and revolutionary. The former for its exposition of details about Truman Capote that I never knew (and I assume they're pretty accurate), the latter because the filmmakers have replicated Capote's feat with the film. They have made a film about facts play like the best of fiction films. This is, of course, what most biopics try to do, but in this case, the focus is so intense that the story is about a particular passage of time in the subject's life.
Grounded in a superb screenplay, the film is entirely in the hand of Philip Seymour Hoffman as Capote, a remarkable performance that dares to dangle over the precipice of overstatement to capture a character who defies fiction. The beauty of the film is that we get the man's complexity, rather than being offered simplistic analysis.
Capote is presented with flaws and weaknesses, including his vanity and his hubris, his manipulative side as well observed as his great literary gift.
Moving, shattering and intellectually stimulating, the film's primal concerns are with the characters who propel the story. But we also get a real sense of the times, the late 50s and early 60s in America. Some of the most brilliantly shot scenes are those in which Capote is holding court, cigarette and intellect burning, drink in hand, his gay persona humming in full entertaining flight. The more dramatic scenes are controlled and understated, drawing us in with our deadly curiosity ....
Review by Louise Keller:
The mood is sombre and Philip Seymour Hoffman leaves an indelible mark as Truman Capote, the writer with the unquenchable thirst for a story as well as adulation. It's a tough film, with a slow and deliberate lilt as tension builds in the unique relationship between brilliant writer and convicted murderer. A story about manipulation and conscience, Capote is a fascinating insight into a man who toys with another man's fate as he sets out to prove his theory that non-fiction can be as spellbinding as fiction.
Capote himself may not have approved of the film. After all, he says 'I find autobiographical stories at this time of my life boring'. A unique character that delights in his own individuality and effeminate eccentricities, he demands to be the centre of attention, seeking success callously. Hoffman inhabits the man with no mercy, forming an unusual relationship with killers Perry Smith (Clifton Collins Jr) and Dick Hickock (Mark Pellegrino). In the harsh coldness of a prison cell, Capote is compelled to reveal something about himself and his own difficult youth, as Smith talks about his childhood years. When he senses that he is sitting on 'a gold mine', it is the sound of the cash registers jingling that set him on a path of deception and betrayal.
Dan Futterman's screenplay concentrates on Capote and the relationships with his partner (Bruce Greenwood), and good friend and writer friend Harper Lee (Catherine Keener) tell us much about the self-absorbed nature of the man, who boasts 94% recall. Smith's reluctance to talk about the fateful night of November 15, 1959 becomes Capote's obsession, as the planned execution is delayed again and again through legal appeals.
Superb performances and fluid direction engage us throughout this character study, and the final scenes are outright disturbing. This is a film worthy of discussion and the issues canvassed are considerable. You may not like the man, but you will be mesmerized by the film.
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PHILLIP SEYMOUR HOFFMAN INTERVIEW
CAST: Phillip Seymour Hoffman, Chris Cooper, Christine Keener, Clifton Collins jr, Mark Pellegrino, Chris Greenwood, Bob Balaban, Amy Ryan
PRODUCER: Caroline Baron, Michael Ohoven, William Vince
DIRECTOR: Bennett Miller
SCRIPT: Dan Futterman (Gerald Clarke book)
CINEMATOGRAPHER: Adam Kimmel
EDITOR: Christopher Tellefsen
MUSIC: Mychael Danna
PRODUCTION DESIGN: Jess Gonchor
RUNNING TIME: 114 minutes
AUSTRALIAN DISTRIBUTOR: Sony
AUSTRALIAN RELEASE: February 23, 2006
RIVERSIDE SCREEN PREMIERES
A program of premiere screenings of new movies prior to their commercial release
on 6 consecutive Tuesdays, starts February 17, 2015 at Riverside Theatre,
Curated & presented by Andrew L. Urban, discussion to
follow with special guests. Briefing notes provided.