Ryan Owen 13/03/2006
When the film opens, we move through a silent countryside towards a solitary house, where we hear a young woman calling for her friend. We follow a woman into a room upstairs where she discovers who we assume to be her friend; dead and seemingly murdered.
This is the start, not to another biopic, but instead an exploration of one of the USA's greatest writers, Truman Capote and his years between 1959 and 1965. The film is based on true events telling the story of Capote's intrigue at the murder of four Kansas farmers. Capote (Philip Seymour Hoffman) is inspired to research the case for an article setting off for Kansas with his close friend, writer Harper Lee (Catherine Keener). Once there, Capote's original plan to interview the murderers for an article grows into a much larger project. The relationship he develops with the prime suspect Perry Smith (Clifton Collins Jr.) is complex as he proves to be sensitive and articulate, with a traumatic personal history. Capote is troubled by his conflicting emotions over the case that he channels into his greatest work, In Cold Blood, a novel that helped to redefine modern non-fiction.
Millers' direction is first-rate, subjecting the audience to several
perspectives; from seeing Capote as cold, heartless and manipulative, and then his behaviour as justifiable through the actions of the murderers. Either way, you sense his selfish motivations and partly understand his assumed death from alcoholism in 1984. One scene in particular, brims with multiple meanings where Capote is shown reading selections from In Cold Blood to a New York audience.
Adam Kimmel's cinematography perfectly suits the dark atmospheric tone of the film by making use of blues and yellows, and being shot in monochromatic. These muted colours along with the high-contrast lighting create an aesthetic apt for the late fifties/early sixties setting. This stylism continues in the editing with its lingering pace, enabling the audience to capture Hoffman's nuances.
Fundamentally important, he gives the role depth and complexity by emulating Capote's speech, mannerisms and idiosyncrasies, with an astounding subtlety and avoids caricature. An unsurprising performance, considering he has
always been a remarkable character actor, evident in 25th Hour, Happiness, Boogie Nights and Magnolia. Here he transcends traditional acting, by embodying and truly becoming Truman Capote; catching the attention of the Academy and is now, favourite for 'Best Actor' Oscar.
Capote is a slow-moving, episodic recitation of a complex and highly flawed genius at the pinnacle of his career.