Thursday, 7 September 2006

Capote (DVD) (2006)

The year is 1959. Truman Capote (Philip Seymour Hoffman) is an up-and-coming author of popular short stories and captivating conversationalist who rubs shoulders with celebrities, fellow authors, critics and tycoons from New York society and beyond. On 15 November, he chances upon an article in the newspaper: four members of a family in Kansas were brutally murdered. Like Gustav Flaubert reading of a tragic suicide in the papers, Capote smells an opportunity to write something ground-breaking and important. Capote persuades William Shawn, his editor (Bob Balaban) at the New Yorker magazine, to fund a trip to Kansas to research for an article on the murders.

Within 6 years, the murderers will be executed, Capote will publish In Cold Blood, a bestseller that would turn him into a household name. Yet shortly after, Capote would become a withdrawn recluse and slide into alcoholism, never to complete another work. Did Truman Capote profit from the killers, their trial and execution? Did he manipulate, then betray the real-life subjects for his "non-fiction novel"? Was this what haunted the author for the rest of his life?

This film provides no easy answers, and virtually every character is in a hell of their own devising, facing dilemmas of their own construction.

Read original film review here

DVD Visuals

Somewhat disappointing is the presence of frequent black dirt and white lines from the film print that got transferred to the DVD without any cleanup. While not earthshakingly bad, these occur somewhat frequently, and in the same areas of the screen.

The very muted and washed out palette that cinematographer Adam Kimmel uses is reproduced faithfully, although it feels to me that projecting it on a cloth screen in a cinema produces a cleaner and less washed out colour tone than watching it on a television screen at home.


Answered Prayers

Capote is an award winning film, and everyone involved in the features are thankfully free of the compulsive need to play up the importance, artistic value or cleverness of the movie, unlike the DVD features of other less acclaimed movies. What you get is a no-nonsense, fluff-free, dispassionate look at the historical figure of Truman Capote, his novel In Cold Blood, and his long correspondence with the real-life killers. Interviews with his biographers and contemporaries flesh out the very flawed but very personable man, while a short video clip of the author should dispel criticisms that Hoffman merely did a mime job – the real Truman Capote lisped much more and spoke in an even higher pitched whine-drawl.

Making Capote

The filmmakers definitely put a lot of thought and preparation even before principal photography began for the movie. Their conceptualisation and extensive planning for the movie more than warrants the 45 minute documentary, which can be viewed in 2 sittings.


Best enabled after you have watched the film/DVD at least twice, as Hoffman, Miller and Kimmer reveal in detail how they constructed the film character of Capote, as well as the look and feel of each scene. These commentaries are worth the viewing, considering how much a work of art the film is.

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