Dir/scr: Douglas McGrath. US 2006. 117mins.

To make another TrumanCapote biopic may be regarded as a misfortune; to make another Truman Capotebiopic about exactly the same period of the writer's life looks likecarelessness. But this classic industry no-no could play out, paradoxically, infavour of Douglas McGrath's nuanced take on the US writer and doyen of Manhattan high society. Infamous is a fascinating film, dramatically more rewarding than Capote, and anchored by a mesmericperformance from British actor Toby Jones which more than measures up to lastyear's Oscar-winning turn by Philip Seymour Hoffman. For the highbrow, urbanaudiences who will make up Infamous'core audience, the deja-vu factor may prove to be anincentive: the game of compare and contrast adds extra spice to an alreadystimulating mix.

Infamous hasbeen ready for a while - it started shooting a few months after Capote - but Warner Independent Picturesheld back the US release until this autumn (Oct 13 in Los Angeles and New York,after a Horizons screening at Venice) to give the film some breathing space -and also, presumably, with a view to the award season. It would certainly be afirst for an actor to pick up major prize acclaim for playing the same role asthe previous year's winner - but this scenario is by no means impossible, giventhe breadth and sensitivity of Jones' take on Truman.

The story should be familiarby now. While searching for inspiration for a new book - his seventh - openlygay author and screenwriter Truman Capote sees a small news article about thevicious killing of a family of four in a Kansasfarmstead. Leaving the coterie of New York society ladies that he calls his"swans" (among them Diana Vreeland, Babe Paley and Marella Agnelli, played respectively by Juliet Stevenson, SigourneyWeaver and Isabella Rossellini), Capote travels down to Hicksville with fellowauthor Nelle Harper Lee (Sandra Bullock), hislifelong friend and amanuensis.

Initially frustrated by thestonewalling of townspeople and police, Capote gradually charms away theresistance and begins to accumulate material for the book that would become In Cold Blood.

The core of what Capotethought of as a "non-fiction novel" is a portrait of the killers, a pair ofdrifters called Dick Hickock (Lee Pace) and PerrySmith (Daniel Craig in brooding, conflicted, pre-Bond mode). Hickock and Smith were eventually hanged for the crime, andCapote's book went on to become an international bestseller.

The inbuilt moralintelligence of McGrath's script and direction is established by a scene rightat the beginning in which a sequin-robed Gwyneth Paltrowdoes a turn as a torch singer at a nightclub where Capote and Babe Paley have a table. In the midst of a suave rendition of Love For Sale she chokes up, seems tolose the thread of the song - and has the audience (on both sides of thescreen) eating out of her hand before recovering and finishing in style. Is shefaking for effect, or did she really break down'

The question is central toMcGrath's depiction of Truman as a man who is never notperforming - even, perhaps, when he enters into the confidence of dour,introverted Perry Smith by offering up a stumbling confession about his ownmother's suicide.

The dilemma was raised inlast year's biopic, too - but there the audience wereleft in little doubt that Capote is manipulative through and through. Herethere is a real sense of the writer as a sympathetic man forced to play thecourt jester in self-defence, and jolted out of hissnobbery and ethical complacency by the good and bad of what he finds in Kansas. In Hollywood script-speak, McGrath's Capote makes a longerjourney.

The descent from a frothycomedy of manners (underscored by some almost parodicallylightweight musical trills) into a dark moral melodrama (cue long, melancholicchords) is well-managed, although there are some problems of pacing in theoverlong second half.

It's also a shame thatMcGrath took the cliched route of the decontextualised TV-style interview to sidelight Capote'scharacter and motives, though there are some great quotes here - such as GoreVidal's description of Capote's voice as "what a Brusselssprout would sound like if a Brusselssprout could talk".

Jones, as Capote, is at oncemore freakish and more believable than Seymour Hoffman's fine essay. There wassomething mannered about the bulky Hoffman's take on the elfin Capote, whereasJones - who has more of the build for the job - appears simply to inhabit theauthor's skin, allowing us to watch him as Capote rather than as Jones doingCapote.

The other talent- including a neatly subdued Sandra Bullock - are mere sidekicks to thismain act. The whirl of New Yorkdinners, lunches and cocktails where Capote gossips with his swans, flatteringand using them at the same time, is played up by glam settings, vintage high-fashioncostumes and vibrant colours. It makes for a completecontrast to the drab monochromes, worn fabrics and monastic prison cells of theKansasscenes, which nevertheless begin to impose a sort of moral authority throughtheir sobriety, enhanced by Amelie cinematographer Bruno Delbonnel'sstill placing shots of Midwestern farmscapes.
Production companies
Killer Films
John Wells Production

International sales
Arclight Films

US distribution
Warner Independent Pictures

Christine Vachon

Douglas McGrath, based on the book TrumanCapote by George Plimpton

Bruno Delbonnel

Production design
Judy Becker

Camilla Toniolo

Rachel Portman

Main cast
Toby Jones
Sandra Bullock
Daniel Craig
Peter Bogdanovich
Jeff Daniels
Hope Davis
Isabella Rossellini
Juliet Stevenson
Sigourney Weaver