Saturday, September 15, 2007

Capote on dvd

When I first saw the preview to the movie, Capote, I was stopped in my tracks by how Philip Seymour Hoffman captured Truman Capote; his appearance, his voice, his mannerisms. The actor was channeling the writer. I was just amazed. However, I put off seeing the movie. I had read In Cold Blood when it first came out and recalled all too well how frightening it was. I wasn't sure I could watch a movie about this killing of a Kansas family in 1959. Last week I was at the library, and was looking at the dvds, and I picked up Capote. A young girl, a former student of Tom's, told me it was great, so I brought it home. I figured I could turn it off or leave the room if it got too intense. Well, I didn't do either one. I was captivated. I was astonished by its perfection; perfect in portraying those years, perfect in the photography of the setting, and as I knew already from the preview, perfect in the characterization of Truman Capote.

The movie was less about the killings than it was about what happened to Truman Capote as a result of them; what writing about them did to the author. It was literary, which befits a movie about a book and a writer. Capote was a serious, excellent author and at the same time a real party fellow. He particularly cared for one of the killers, in part because he felt they had much the same childhoods. He says in the movie that it is like they lived in the same house, and when they grew up the killer went out the back door and Truman went out the front. As Phil Ochs sang, "there but for fortune go you or I." And though he cared for him and got lawyers to plead the cases, at the same time he could not finish his book until they died, so a part of him wanted their end to come. It is thought to be the best work he ever did.

Capote said,

No one will ever know what 'In Cold Blood' took out of me. It scraped me right down to the marrow of my bones. It nearly killed me. I think, in a way, it did kill me.

The movie simply could not have been better. One of the extras on the dvd features a talk with Gerald Clarke, who wrote the 1988 biography of Truman Capote. I read it last year and liked it very much.


  1. Philip Seymour Hoffman was fantastic in this roll. I saw it in the theater and was amazed at how many layers of self he could communicate, especially when the camera was in extreme close-up. He was at once soft and affected via his voice and body movement and still ruthlessly clever and cold via the look in his eye. He really deserved the Academy Award.

  2. I really enjoyed this movie. Like you, I wasn't planning on watching it but was persuaded to borrow it from the library. It made me want to go back and reread In Cold Blood.

  3. Nan,
    I too was amazed by the eerily perfect portrayal. It was no surprise when Hoffman won the Oscar.

    When I read the book, I found the murders horrifying in their senseless brutality. Capote, as portrayed in the film, seemed almost mesmerized by the event. I too thought he developed a genuine relationship with one of the murderers but also felt that he used this relationship to better his book.

  4. I haven't seen this movie yet. Now I will be sure to. Thanks!


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