~ There is only one journey: going inside yourself. ~
- Rainer Maria Rilke


Capote ~ Wednesday, January 03, 2007

An interesting film--made all the more interesting after viewing the short documentary about the actual Capote.

Hoffman (sp?) played Capote as a petulant, self-absorbed egotist who managed to gain entree into the lives and confidences of the people of the town by virtue of his previous writings as a novelist (the main investigator's wife was star struck). There didn't seem to be a strong rapport and Capote didn't seem to have a lot of compassion for anyone except himself.

It was difficult to see why people would like him--why he would have an attractive and likeable lover and why Harper Lee would voluntarily spend any time with him except on those occasions when he paid her to be his P.A.

As a film in itself (rather than something based on real events), there were a number of interesting elements that made it intriguing. First was the parallel between Capote and Perry Smith, one of the murderers. Capote at one point says that he and Smith could have been brothers, growing up in the same house, but "Smith left the house from the back door and I left from the front" (pardon any misquotes--unlike Capote, I do not have anywhere near 94% recall of conversations--nor have I tested myself).

And this is carried through. If Perry Smith's actions in murdering the family seemed to be in cold blood on the surface (but something darker and far more complex once one looks deeper), then the same could be said of Capote's actions in manipulating everyone in order to get the information he needed to construct his narrative. There is a calculation to him that feels almost sinister. He feels like an anti-hero.

There were a few really great moments--the big turning point between Perry and Capote during the latter's interviews. Also, the final face-to-face encounter between Capote and the killers, in which Capote faces his own monstrosity (based on his previous acts or lack thereof, and his desire for a clean resolution) in the face of the killers' understanding and compassion of him. It was powerful, IMO.

All the same, it was difficult to understand how a man like this fictional Capote could have won over the confidences of all these people and then have transformed those confidences into the ground-breaking, insightful final product (as described in the film; I'll confess I haven't read the book, but now am intrigued to do so--in fact, aside from having seen the film Breakfast at Tiffany's, and knowing Capote existed, I knew little about the man going into the film). He seemed far too self-absorbed and self-obsessed to be able to develop any insights into anyone else, as played by Hoffman.

But, this presented an interesting contrast to the vivid portrait conveyed of Capote in the brief documentary that was included as a bonus feature on the dvd. That Capote, while sharing some of the physical traits and peculiarities affected by Hoffman for the film, was an altogether different figure, as described by those who knew him.

Also self-absorbed, egotistical and undoubtedly sullen at times, when the peculiarities were placed in the context of the man himself, suddenly they made sense (in a brief clip of an interview with him). Suddenly, the charm became visible--a kind of likeability in his manner and quirks, he seemed like someone who would make you smile, even if you might think him a bit of a self-absorbed jerk at times. There was also an earnestness and a vulnerability to the man that Hoffman's portrayal didn't include.

And though his books might have gained him some initial sort of entree into the community, friends and biographers alike seemed to feel that he was a man who was deeply interested--and indeed fascinated--by people. That he was one of those people who, when you caught his interest, was so engaged that he made you feel like you were the only person in the room. They also seemed to agree that he became deeply attached to everyone involved with the case--that he genuinely cared about them.

Very little of this came through in the film, though I bought the idea that his fame and his manipulations were what allowed him to learn things, whereas the glimpse provided by the documentary of the real Capote seemed far more intriguing--a blend of self-absorbtion and kindness or compassion.

And so, I'll be adding Capote's work and perhaps his biography to my "to look into someday" list. :-)

::Posted by Anduril Elessar @ 12:44 PM::::


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