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Capote (2005)Capote (2005)

Philip Seymour Hoffman stars as the (in)famous writer Truman Capote (1924–1984) in one of the best films of the year, despite the problems of viewer identification that it might provoke. In researching his "non-fiction novel" In Cold Blood Capote befriended a young man who was convicted and eventually executed for the brutal murder of a Kansas family of four. The portrait of Capote that emerges is of a flamboyant artistic genius whose deeply complex personality reveals itself in decidedly mixed motives. He attracts, repels and fascinates us, all at the same time. In the film Capote befriends the young prisoner Perry Smith for at least four conflicting reasons. Capote was egotistical, vain, narcissistic, condescending and ambitious. Several times he lied to Smith in order to exploit him for selfish, professional purposes in writing his book. When asked if he "esteemed" Smith, Capote replies, "he's a gold mine." Second, Capote's gay lover Jack jealously accused him of falling in love with Smith, which also seems to be true. Third, interviewing Smith evoked powerful memories of his own childhood that resulted in an obsessive act of self-identification and emotional attachment with him: "it's as if we grew up in the same house, but he went out the front door and I went out the back." These memories include exclusion as an outsider, family suicide, alcoholism, and parental abandonment. Finally, Capote genuinely empathized for the young death row inmate, and the film provokes themes of social justice revolving around our penal system and pity for a criminal with a horrible childhood. Smith is not a monster, he insists, and Capote intends his book to "return him to the realm of humanity." Still, Capote chose not to do all that he might have to save Smith; he even wanted Smith to die to supply an ending for his book. When the film ends we learn that In Cold Blood remained an unfinished novel, and that it was the last book that Capote ever wrote, even though he lived another eighteen years. Badly missing in this remarkable film—the slightest mention of the murdered victims and their families. Capote won five Academy Award nominations.

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