Monday, 24 November 2014
There remains a huge morbid fascination for the sensationalist and sudden rampages, specifically those in small sleepy towns of America's Midwest conducted by icily detached youths.
Truman Capote, the flamboyant and homosexual Breakfast At Tiffany's author, knew this and helped shape the reportage outlet that we now know today for such heinous crimes with his sensational 1966 'non fiction novel', In Cold Blood. In 1959, Capote had descended upon the town of Holcomb in Kansas, accompanied by his childhood friend and fellow writer Harper Lee, to report on the home invasion and brutal slaying of farmer Herbert Clutter, his wife and two of their children by Richard Eugene Hickock and Perry Edward Smith.
In Cold Blood was a publishing sensation and remains the second biggest selling true crime book in history, just behind Helter Skelter (the book about the Manson murders) The morbid fascination continued, making its way to the screen with four adaptations including three films and a TV mini series.
Two of the films chose to focus on Capote's experience of the crime and the writing of his book and they appeared hot on the heels of one another in 2005/06; Infamous starring Toby Jones and Capote starring the late Philip Seymour Hoffman.
Before tonight I had only seen Infamous, which I watched a couple of years ago now. I recall finding it a passable enough viewing experience helped greatly by Toby Jones' excellent portrayal of Capote as well as the residual aforementioned morbid fascination.
Is Capote any better?
Well maybe, just a bit. Like its rival much of the film's interest truly lies in its depiction of Capote himself. Philip Seymour Hoffman may not be as natural a physical fit as Jones was but, like a chameleon, he somehow manages to impersonate the man perfectly; seemingly losing before our very eyes much of his weight and his (5'9'')height to embody the sly and fey little elfin like figure that was the barely 5 foot high Truman Capote.
He also embodies the man's ruthless streak completely. Bennett Miller's interpretation of the events takes great pains to present Capote as a writer whose loyalty was forever first and foremost to his art. As such, he is seen to lie, cheat, manipulate and inveigle his way into the affections, confidences of the townsfolk, the investigating police officers and the killers themselves. He is the embodiment of the very worst excesses of the journalist; someone who seduces, disarms and befriends simply to get the story. In this regard Capote's title In Cold Blood may well suggest the starkly horrific murders and the unrepentant air of both Hickock and Smith, but it also could very well be ascribed to the behaviour of the author himself. Deeply unsympathetic and never truly brought to charge morally for his actions, Bennet Miller's Capote remains so unlikable it does perhaps scupper some enjoyment and interaction an audience can have with the film itself.
However perhaps karma truly intervened for, having concluded In Cold Blood in 1966, Truman Capote became a spent force, compelled to live on his laurels rather than trump this smash hit until his death in 1984.
Since his untimely, tragic demise in February this year, it's hard to watch any film featuring Philip Seymour Hoffman because to do so is to come to terms with the fact that his impressive and wide ranging talent will be as sorely missed as the man himself. As a film fan and admirer of the actor it was easy to see that, had he lived, Philip Seymour Hoffman's unquestionable and already colossal talent would continue to grow and impress us all, unlike that of Capote himself.