A big film in a small space
Philip Seymour Hoffman’s portrayal of Truman Capote in the eponymously named film is a truly great performance that fully deserved the Oscar he got earlier on in the year. The film captures the time during which Capote researched the material for his most famous book, ‘In Cold Blood’, the only one of his books that I’ve read. The only other work of his that I know is the film of his novel, ‘Breakfast at Tiffanys’. That notwithstanding, I’ve long known who and what he was: a brilliant writer and social butterfly with an ego that would never have wanted to be encountered in the world’s smallest cinema.
Capote was fully aware of how his camp demeanour and high-pitched nasal voice were very off-putting to those who first met him but he was adept at ingratiating himself into the lives of others, particularly those who could advance him in any way. Hoffman produces a totally unsympathetic character who repels and fascinates as he befriends, almost seduces, Perry Smith, one of the killers responsible for the Clutter murders in rural Kansas in 1959. Through his intervention, he manages to get several stays of execution but there appears to be no other motive for this other than having more time to gather material for a book he knows is going to be ground-breaking.
This film isn’t a biography in that it concentrates on a particular episode of Capote’s life but it manages to encapsulate every facet that made up the character of a great twentieth century literary figure. On completing ‘In Cold Blood’, Capote effectively created the genre of reportage with his non-fiction novel and in celebrating its success with a black and white ball (he claimed that he made 500 friends and made 15000 enemies on the day the invitations went out) he was one of the first Americans to mix up old-money privilege with pop artists, models and photographers.
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