We blather on about Truth-with-a-Capital-T fairly often here at communicatrix, partly because we spring from soil rich with mendacity and partly because we feel it's an important concept to stay in touch with if one is an artist. (Ahem.) Early on in Capote, the main character, played excellently by Philip Seymour Hoffman, makes a big flap about The Truth, specifically, how he always hews to it. Of course, the rest of the movie is about how he twists and turns it and even, in one harrowing jailhouse scene, abandons it altogether. Because of course, there are few artists who aren't ready and willing to abandon The Truth when it gets in the way of making art. Especially brilliant, megalomaniacal artists who are trying to fill an emotional black hole with fame and adoration.
As one of the executive producers on the film, Hoffman is at least partly responsible for getting so many of the details right. The cinematography is exquisite, bleak and stark in the killing fields of Kansas, rich and warm in Literary Party Town, a.k.a. Manhattan of the 1950s and '60s. The casting (with the curious exception, for me, anyway, of Clifton Collins Jr.) is top-notch, and the performances are so good you don't pay attention to them.*
It's not an especially moving movie, though, which I find odd given the subject matter (the film focuses on Capote's years researching and writing In Cold Blood, his non-fiction masterpiece about the Clutter family murders, a senseless and gruesome multiple homicide in West Kansas). I can't put my finger on why exactly, but I've a feeling it springs from being too close to the material: clearly, Hoffman was a guiding force behind this picture and doubtless he felt very connected to the material somehow.
Still, in an age where the measure of a great movie is rapidly becoming the number of times you don't look at your watch in the theater, Capote stands out. It's beautiful at the very least, and engrossing at its very best.
*This includes a smallish but wonderful performance by a very lovely and talented acquaintance of mine, Miss Bess Meyer, as Perry Smith's sister.
Image ©2005 Sony Pictures Classics