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Capote


Darrel Manson
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Very good. On the surface, it will no doubt reignite the debate (last year about Ray) of whether imitation is worthy of Oscar nomination. Certainly Phillip Seymore Hoffman nails the voice and mannerisms as you probably know from the trailers. But more, he also nails the insecurity that is buried under a vaneer of socialability.

The story has Capote as something of a contradiction. In one scene he says he's been accused of using one of the killers and also of falling in love with him. He doesn't understand how someone could think both are possible, but in the film you see him doing both.

A foreign movie can't be stupid.

-from the film
Armin

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  • 3 weeks later...
The story has Capote as something of a contradiction. In one scene he says he's been accused of using one of the killers and also of falling in love with him. He doesn't understand how someone could think both are possible, but in the film you see him doing both.

Just saw it and, yes, you're exactly right. The film does a great job of making you care about the man even as you are bewildered and sometimes even apalled by him.

Catherine Keener, who's having an impressive year, and Bruce Greenwood give him good support, but Hoffman commands our attention whenever he's onscreen. It's hard to believe this is the same man who played Lester Bangs in Almost Famous or the T&T Mattress Man in Punch-drunk Love. The only performance it reminded me of at all was his small role in The Big Lebowski. He's a shoe-in for a nomination; I can't think of any actor I've seen this year more deserving of such honors.

Hoffman's performance is a lot more than mere mannerisms and imitation... he inhabits the voice and the mannerisms with a lot of heart, and we walk away feeling like we've encountered portrayal that's as strong or stronger... at this point I'd say stronger... than Jamie Foxx's Ray Charles. The movie isn't out to bury Capote or praise him--the filmmakers seem as mystefied by the man as we are in the end.

Highly recommended.

P.S.  I COULD BE WRONG.

 

Takin' 'er easy for all you sinners at lookingcloser.org. Also abiding at Facebook and Twitter.

 

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I saw Capote in Toronto, and two months later it's Miller's direction rather than Hoffman's performance that stands out in my memory. I don't know if this will make sense, but I like the size of the film. I like the way Miller tells most of his story in close-ups and the way he avoids so many of the biopic pitfalls, like over-earnest monologues and sentimental climaxes.

As an aside, I also love that Keener didn't even attempt a Southern Alabama accent. Harper Lee's presence in Capote's life is more integral to the story than the small details that supposedly bring verisimilitude to "true life" films. Too many biopics, I think, get that exactly backwards.

Edited by Darren H
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I saw it over the weekend and liked it a lot. Philip Seymour Hoffman should definitely get an Oscar nomination for this role. What impressed me the most was the way he captured the internal contradictions of this character, and how Capote was a lonely person who craved attention. He was a messy character who wasn't easy to figure out, like a real person would be. It's easy to focus on the way Hoffman captured Capote's curious voice and mannerisms, but where he shines brightest is the tiny glimpses he offers into the wall Capote built around his inner self. Catharine Keener was excellent as always, and Clifton Collins Jr. as Perry Smith was very impressive as well.

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The IMDB indicates the version shown at the Toronto festival was about 12 minutes longer than the version now in theatres. Anybody know if this is true and what, if anything, was cut?

"Sympathy must precede belligerence. First I must understand the other, as it were, from the inside; then I can critique it from the outside. So many people skip right to the latter." -- Steven D. Greydanus
Now blogging at Patheos.com. I can also still be found at Facebook, Twitter and Flickr. See also my film journal.

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  • 4 weeks later...

Really loved this movie. Miller's direction is so wonderfully restrained. I thought PSH's performance was A+, and that he totally disappeared into the character. I predict he'll get nominated for a Golden Globe, but not an Oscar, and will not win the GG. Hopefully I'm wrong.

[Tangentially - favorite PSH roles: Phil Parma in Magnolia and Jacob Elinsky in 25th Hour.

Sara Zarr

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Tangentially - favorite PSH roles: Phil Parma in Magnolia and Jacob Elinsky in 25th Hour.

Oooo. Wow. What would I choose?

Lester Bangs in Almost Famous, I think. Not his greatest transformation, but it's the character I have the greatest affection for.

Phil Parma in Magnolia would be a close second. I love, love, love to the point of tears the scenes where he's trying to track down Tom Cruise by telephone.

Brandt, the assistant to the Big Lebowski, is also one of my favorites. Favorite quotes: "This is our concern, Dude." and "Ah haha. That's marvelous."

Honorable mention: Freddie Miles in The Talented Mr. Ripley and the Mattress Man in Punch-drunk Love.

P.S.  I COULD BE WRONG.

 

Takin' 'er easy for all you sinners at lookingcloser.org. Also abiding at Facebook and Twitter.

 

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Superb. A wonderful companion to GOOD NIGHT, AND GOOD LUCK - a pair of small, smart, understated historical pieces with a terrific sense of period from directors and screenwriters early in their careers. This is turning into a very nice fall at the movies.

Within the film, I was fascinated by the contrast between Harper Lee and Truman Capote, and the way that Lee's character seemed so completely in keeping with her book: centred, wise, full of honour and integrity.

Edited by Ron

I've posted a couple hundred of my Soul Food Movies write-ups at letterboxd

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  • 2 weeks later...

Finally saw this today, and ditto the above comments - a very moving film, masterfully using relatively small details to convey important ideas and emotions.

:spoilers:

One of the small details that especially struck me, was how Chris Cooper's lawman character shook Perry Smith's hand and looked him in the eye, shortly before Smith's hanging. I thought this very effectively showed the depth of the lawman's integrity, despite his close connection to the murder victims.

On a side note (yet a significant one, IMHO), does anyone know how accurate this film was, in its depiction of historical details?

To be an artist is never to avert one's eyes.
- Akira Kurosawa

https://www.patheos.com/blogs/secularcinephile/

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One of the small details that especially struck me, was how Chris Cooper's lawman character shook Perry Smith's hand and looked him in the eye, shortly before Smith's hanging. I thought this very effectively showed the depth of the lawman's integrity, despite his close connection to the murder victims.

I really liked this detail as well. You definitely got the sense that Cooper's character did not relish this task at all, and was willing to show him some dignity despite all he had done. Which made an interesting counter to how Capote treated him in some ways.

"I feel a nostalgia for an age yet to come..."
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  • 1 month later...

I watched this and Good Night, and Good Luck back-to-back, and I was struck at how they both had similar editing technique of making something that was rather lengthy, appear lengthy, but omit a very large portion. Clooney showed at least four, maybe five episodes of See It Now, and they seemed full-length, while only lasting four minutes or so. Capote's reading the first couple of pages of In Cold Blood in front of the auditorium performed the same trick, by reading the first paragrah, the seventh, and then another one a few more pages in, but you get the sense you are hearing the whole first chapter.

I don't know if that is of any import, and it may only seem unique to me because I watched them at a matinee together.

"Those are my principles, and if you don't like them... well, I have others." - Groucho Marx

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Ok, finally just saw this one tonight.

The verdict is that I think I saw two of my favourite performances of the year this week (I also finally caught Walk the Line on Thurs.), but I think Phillip Seymour Hoffman's performance might be the most masterful one and I rooting for him on Oscar night. Like a lot of the others on the board, when I started to think about how many wonderful smaller roles PSH has been in over the years, I'd love to see him get some recognition.

It would be so easy to just play Truman Capote as a caricature--the voice, the mannerisms--but Hoffman goes beyond that and portrays the complexity. Of the people I was with, one found him surprisingly likable, despite his behavior at times, and another disliked him immensely.

The contradictions that were Capote were handled marvellously. Considering how much discussion has raged in the other biopic threads (Ray, Walk the Line) about the moral considerations of the movie, I think this film does a fantastic job in just presenting and not editorialising. All in all I found the film fascinating.

I think this is one of the three Best Picture Oscar nominees that I think actually deserve it (Can you guess which two I don't think did?)

"A director must live with the fact that his work will be called to judgment by someone who has never seen a film of Murnau's." - François Truffaut

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  • 4 weeks later...

Back to the subject of this thread. I really, really liked the film. I admired the courage of the filmmakers in portraying layers of hypocrisy and paradox without falling back on cheap pessimism. I could strongly identify with Truman Capote, which is quite a feat in itself, and speaks to the strengths and skill involved in this film.

I agree. One of the things that struck me about Truman Capote was how frightening it was to think that he wasn't that far fetched. How have I manipulated, consciously or unconsciously, the people around me for my own means?

The more I think about this film, the more I appreciate about it. I think there are a lot of spiritual themes underlying the film and I'm surprised there hasn't been as much discussion here about this one.

"A director must live with the fact that his work will be called to judgment by someone who has never seen a film of Murnau's." - François Truffaut

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Reviews and essays at Three Brothers Film.

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  • 2 months later...

I just saw this film last night and liked it very much. I agree with what others have said about Hoffman's performance - it is not just imitating Capote's voice and mannerisms, it is great acting.

Others commented on all his fine performances in other films. I remember seeing him first in Scent of a Woman, where he is one of the college students, and thinking that he was out-acting most of the other people in the film (he's not in scenes with Al Pacino until the end). I remember thinking then that he almost drew too much attention to himself in that film with his fine acting, as he was not a major character. But I knew he was good.

:spoilers: When Perry finally tells Truman about the night of the murders, at first I thought he was going to pull a Truman on Truman. I thought he had planned out what he would tell him to make himself look better than he was, and blame it all on Dick (it kind of starts that way) to try to keep Truman's respect/affections. But he doesn't do that, showing that he is also so much different than Truman.

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  • 2 months later...

As a first post--

I'd like to just add I was completely blown away by PSH in this film. I actually wrote a sort of open letter to him, which is on my myspace here.

I think this was probably the best performance by an actor that I have ever seen.

I should probably go find an "intro" section someplace and introduce myself.... :)

Emily

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  • 6 years later...

Capote Classic 'In Cold Blood' Tainted by Long-Lost Files

new evidence undermines Mr. Capote's claim that his best seller was an "immaculately factual" recounting of the bloody slaughter of the Clutter family in their Kansas farmhouse. It also calls into question the image of Mr. Dewey as the brilliant, haunted hero.

A long-forgotten cache of Kansas Bureau of Investigation documents from the investigation into the deaths suggests that the events described in two crucial chapters of the 1966 book differ significantly from what actually happened.

It's the side effects that save us.
--The National, "Graceless"
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  • 1 year later...

Alex von Tunzelmann @ Guardian gives the film an A- for entertainment and a C- for history, e.g.:

 

When two suspects – Perry Smith and Dick Hickock – are arrested and tried, Capote visits the warden of the jail in which they are being held, and requests unlimited visits. To forestall any objection, he hands an envelope stuffed with cash to the warden.

 

The only evidence for Capote having bribed his way into Death Row is a quote (unattributed, but apparently from Capote) in Clarke's biography: "I went for broke and asked for an interview with this behind-the-scenes figure, who was a man of great distinction and renown in that state. 'I'll give you ten thousand dollars if you can arrange this,' I said. … I guess my offer was very tempting, and he just nodded his head."

 

Bearing in mind that Capote was often reluctant to let the facts get in the way of his best stories, it's reasonable to have doubts about this one. It is known that he engaged a legal firm called Saffels & Hope to negotiate his access deal – over, not under, the table – with the governor of Kansas. . . .

 

The film slowly peels away the protective layers Capote has carefully draped over himself, revealing that, at base, all he cares about is getting his story. "I'm going to help you find a proper lawyer," he tells Smith. "You need a serious lawyer for the appeal." The film returns several times to Capote's promise of helping the suspects' legal defence. This is one of its most striking untruths. There is no evidence Capote ever offered to help Hickock and Smith find a lawyer. . . .

"Sympathy must precede belligerence. First I must understand the other, as it were, from the inside; then I can critique it from the outside. So many people skip right to the latter." -- Steven D. Greydanus
Now blogging at Patheos.com. I can also still be found at Facebook, Twitter and Flickr. See also my film journal.

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