Review of "Capote"

Saw the movie, Capote, today?
It has the same flat, cold, relentless feel as Capote?s book: In Cold Blood? which, in fact, is almost the entire focus of the movie.
Its about Capote?s initial (and unexplained) attraction to the murders; his travels to rural Kansas, where the killings took place; about his research and interviews, predominantly with the most insane (and complicated) of the two killers, and his writing of the book.

The fact that the movie is so monotonally without temperature, so clearly without significant dramatic arc; terror, pity?and catharsis?is, I?m guessing, a deliberate choice by the creators of the film (writer, actors, director, etc.). They have made a movie to mirror the bleak, unforgiving tone (and events) of the original book Capote researched and wrote.
And, also, they are dealing with cold people and harsh situations?Not just a vicious, heartless murder of a whole family by complete psychopaths, but, of course, with Truman Capote himself, who is portrayed as the ultimate narcissist.

I suppose that stands as a pejorative, ?Narcissist.? But I don?t mean it to be, necessarily? (For starters, I?d be a hypocrite of sorts, condemning a state of being that I (unfortunately) fit into quite suitably myself.
What I mean by choosing that word is that the two main characters are almost completely unsympathetic. As an audience member you are never given the slightest real opportunity to identify with either of these two men?and that is enough to keep you at an emotional distance for/from the entire movie.

The most disturbed of the killers, Perry Smith, and then- Truman Capote, are textbook cases of people who live only in their own world and can only either fit the rest of the world into their own self-circumscribed universe or react violently (murderously or suicidally) when it doesn?t fit.
And, as any good practicing narcissist knows, the world out there; people, events, even the goddamn weather and foot traffic on the sidewalk, NEVER fits into the way you envisioned it, expected it, and absolutely demand that it should.

In any case, the rave reviews written about Philip Seymour Hoffman are all deserved. He is truly a remarkable actor?not a movie star but a real actor; a man who can fit himself completely into all different sorts of characters and pull the most intense emotions out of you.
In this case he has turned himself into a cold, self-involved, manipulative writer?whose defenses against the cruelties of the world were so extreme and total that nobody in his time and place could get close to him?and neither can you, even if you do pay $10.00 to see him.

I had the same distanced feeling about this movie as I did when I read In Cold Blood (perfect title in every way). I was morbidly fascinated by the events and pulled by the great artistry of the writer?but many times I had the urge to put the book down?give up on it completely?because it was so chilly and without sympathy.

(**A qualification here: This is being written by someone?your semi-humble reviewer?who has a habit of crying when some Italian tenor sings: ?Mama? in a schmaltzy 19th century opera. After all, Pagliaci is, in fact, quite publicly crying when he sings about having to laugh on the outside and cry on the inside. I prefer all my clowns, slapstick and tragic both, to shed copious tears and not keep their anguish to themselves.)

So, is Capote worth seeing? Yes, for Philip Seymour Hoffman?s acting, but not, as far as I can report, for any other artistic reason.

– Mike Feder (New York City – October 29, 2005)

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