Saturday, September 24, 2005

capote (miller, 2005)

A real honest-to-God "tradition of quality" movie, of no stylistic interest whatsoever, but handsomely shot. Its widescreen ratio and casual realism begs comparison to In Cold Blood, that is, the 1967 adaptation of Truman Capote's docu-novel, although the only connection - a tenuous one at that - has to do with subject matter. Richard Brooks' award-winner's reputation as docu-realist landmark is not merely betrayed but mocked outright by the director's tendency towards that patented brand of grand, clumsy gestures that can only mean one thing: a 1960s/'70s A-list director's bloated half-notion of what '40s B-noirs were like. Whereas those poverty-row wonders bear continued review and remark, the Brooks film is the kind of Classic that nobody can bring themselves to see again. It has more in common with Guess Who's Coming to Dinner than one might think.

On the other hand, Capote affects a nonchalant, un-hurried "this is how it was" tone. This is an unpretentious Oscar-monger: it goes down easy, doesn't look like it'll date badly, and there's nothing in it to obstruct Philip Seymour Hoffman's inevitable Oscar nomination. Not even a hint of ambition.

An interesting aspect of the film is its emphasis on Capote's opportunism, and the fact that his compassion towards Perry Smith was ultimately little more than a shrewd performance, not at all dissimilar to Hoffman's. Due to Hollywood storytelling conventions, however, the film is obliged to make the most of Capote's last-minute remorse. This is the scene where Hoffman does his forehead-vein-popping, to indicate heart-rending/-rended empathy.

Aside from the investors and the Oscar candidates, who is interested in this kind of mimic-job, and why? Upon our pop culture, films like Capote bestow pitch-perfect imitations - stand-up performers doing Brando or Walken, but in a completely different context, characterized by a meticulous, unobtrusive, poker-faced non-style.

No comments: