Dir. Bennett Miller. US. 2005. 110mins.
Philip Seymour Hoffman delivers agalvanising and awards-worthy performance in Capote, the superbdramatisation of US novelist Truman Capote at the zenith of his career: the sixyears from 1959 to 1965 that he devoted to his ground-breaking 'non-fiction'novel In Cold Blood.
But the real star of the show is BennettMiller in his feature film directorial debut. The director of the award-winningdocumentary The Cruise has achieved atender and sometimes macabre view into the parasitic connection between anartist and his subject.
Being the story of a writer - there is nosturm und drang, no car chases or close shaves to appease the inattentive audience- it's an unlikely candidate for break-out. Sony Pictures Classics releaseCapote in the US on Sept 30.
A story based on a cultural icon ofCapote's stature is made doubly difficult because the man became in later lifethat terrible cliche of celebrity, famous for being famous and the butt of anynumber of impressionists because of his high drawling voice. That is how Capoteis remembered 22 years after his death at 59 from alcoholism.
Hoffman banishes this image. He resurrectsthe Capote of that era, 35-years-old and at the top of his game. It's less aportrayal than an embodiment, despite the fact that Capote was just over fivefeet tall.
Similarly, the film resurrects In ColdBlood. While the 40 years since its publication have shown the power andpopularity of novelisations of actual events - Alive, The Hot Zone and ThePerfect Storm - the film remindsus how truly ground-breaking Capote's work was. At minimum, the book shouldenjoy a resurgence in popularity.
Capote was no stranger to journalism andhis first encounter with the murder of a Kansas family - he's seen clippingwith precise scissor snips from the New York Times - seemed like another longmagazine piece.
With his childhood friend Harper Lee(Catherine Keener) as his research assistant, he sets off on the train toKansas, and the first sensational Capote insight: a black train porter withflorid ease compliments Capote on his latest novel. Capote thanks him. Theporter leaves. A beat. Lee looks at Capote, "You paid him to say that." Capotelooks at her, "Was it that obvious'" It's an ice-breaking moment that sets thefilm on course, establishing the playful side of a monumental ego and layingthe foundation for an almost graphic depiction of how the work grew to consumeits writer.
From the moment Capote steps off that trainto the last frames as he drains yet another cocktail, the film gets everythingright. Arriving in Kansas, Capote is beat-generation camp until he recognisesthat his appearance may distract the good folk of Kansas, including the localdetective (Cooper) he has come to interview.
From there on he wears dark suits - sodressed, he does a pirouette for an approving Lee. Again, these are the subtlemoments where the film is most impressive. There's no direct reference in thedialogue and yet the meaning is clear.
Supporting players are all strong but thediscovery is Clifton Collins Jr as Perry Smith, a person who mesmerised Capoteby subverting his expectation of a killer. Collins has the same effect on the audience.Capote was drawn to Smith because the two men were very much alike in theirbackground and sensitivity. "We could have been born in the same house, exceptI walked out the front door and Perry walked out the back."
If the film drags toward the end, it mayhave more to do with the surreal torpor of their final exchanges as the writerwaited for his subjects to be executed so that he could finish his book.
Cooper's Town Productions
Infinity Media Canada
Sony Pictures Classics
Philip Seymour Hoffman
Dan Futterman, based on the book by Gerald Clarke
Philip Seymour Hoffman
Clifton Collins Jr.