Capote

Heavy psychological drama. This biopic of the infamous effeminate, lisping, out of the closet homosexual author of In Cold Blood focuses on his relationship with one of the killers of that heinous crime of the 60s. It rather insightfully captures how Capote’s simultaneous obsession and manipulative relationship with that killer created a moral crisis in his life so effective that he never wrote another novel afterwards. It is not a flattering portrait, but it is not an attack piece either. It is at once, both sensitive to the unfriendly suspicion of him by a morally upright society who nevertheless loves his writing, and unhesitatingly frank about Capote’s own aristocratic and hypocritical snobbery toward that same society. And in this movie, I found the morality of that American society refreshingly fair and without the harsh hateful judgment of it made by so many other movies. And yet, it reveals Capote’s self-delusion of being an honest man who “doesn’t lie.” He fancies himself honest and frank, but in reality, he lies from beginning to end to the killer in order to get his story. He masquerades with a pseudo-concern for the man’s rights against an unfair system of capital punishment, but between his lines we see that he is concerned about getting enough time to finish the story. And his concern for the humanity of the killer, is really a ploy to get inside the head of the killer to figure out what motives drive the evil that men do. Yet, in this course, he does connect with the humanity of the killer and finds himself in the killer. In the same way that the killer used his victims without concern for this humanity to achieve his ends, so Capote has used the killer as a thing to achieve his story without concern for his humanity. But so much of this is understated by showing Capote’s emotional reactions to specific events, like the killer’s death row last meeting, but not explaining his actual thoughts. Capote’s own ambiguities come through elsewhere when he reveals tidbits of his personal struggles. The theme of the movie is expressed when Capote says to his companion, Harper Lee, that he sees the killer and himself as being raised in the same family, but the only difference is that killer went out the back door and Capote went out the front door. Very powerful insight into the nature of crime and evil that I think is very needed in this world. It is a premise that I work from in my own writing, namely, that the interest in evil is not that it is something remote and fascinating for it’s own sake, or that it is an example of how environment or even chemicals makes “them” different from “us.” But rather that the evil that resides in such abominable beings, resides in us all. Depravity is an inheritance of the whole human race, me included. Well, I don’t want to scare anyone, but when I write evil characters, like killers, evil guards in POW camps, cowards, or whatnot, I simply look deep into myself and take what selfish or evil traits I struggle with and expand them to an extreme, as if I had fed them instead of feeding the pursuit of righteousness that I must continue to do. Capote is dialogue heavy, but I enjoyed it because Capote was a witty and Shaw-like man of words, and the movie captured that so well. Philip Seymour Hoffman embodies him so truthfully that I was captivated by listening to what he said at every moment.

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