. . . . . .
INFAMOUS. How disappointed I am to reach the end of this 2006 film of Capote's self-destructive quest for a novel! I loved CAPOTE, for its quiet glamour, and for Hoffman's portrayal of a dramatic, careful, stylish if not self-centered, driven and emotionally confident, even distant, cultural aesthete. I was skeptical to watch this version based on Plimpton's biography--and now I know why: it fails in exactly the ways Miller's version succeeds. Toby Jones' Capote is a tripping stereotype of the witty big city queen, falling over himself as he flings the slug of his body at each new stranger he sees, arms flailing to his sides, unattractive and prissy, to interview them. She's a vulgar caricature, and even the accent comes off affected. "Suck my cock you cocksucker" a prisoner shouts down a runway of cells, "I don't snack." Another asks him,"You want to eat my asshole you bitch?" "I prefer it to your face" quips Capote, as he clicks down the cell block like a model on a runway. These scenes are funny and I almost forgive the portrayal of Capote as a social fraud, who finally reveals himself at the end of the movie with embarrassing, forthwright sadness.
I rented it because I wanted to see what another actor could do, another director, and McGrath's vision has the charm of socialite gossip, taking Plimpton's book as cue. After the first ten minutes you can forgive, even begin to forget the Jones' adolescent, clumsy--almost desperate to be liked?--version of Capote, for these sycophantic social scenes in which he carouses with his "Swans", the elite ladies of cocktail entertainments and attentions. But halfway through the film, we experience a terrible descent of soap opera proportion into the psychosexual drama that magnetizes Capote to his Murderer, complete with the awful self-indulgence of romantic confession (Your mother committed suicide? Ah! Mine too!) a mock-rape (in which Perry Smith punishes Capote for the title of the book by stuffing a black rag in his mouth and ripping his pants), and the nauseating moment where Smith admits his homosexuality ("I'll tell you what punishment is for me--its hoping there is someone for you and after years of no one, you find him and you can't have him.")--culminating in a KISS. So in the end we don't even have a murderer, but a lonely, lovesick closeted, misguided small town guy looking for his true love.
Here's where Jones' vision of Capote really falters for me, because as he reveals the author's desires and hidden failures, it's almost impossible to tell if he's still lying and manipulating his murderer in the interest of his novel. It's as if, in the end, he can't find a center for Capote as a character, driven novelist or erotic fantasist. It's ALL an act, always self-consciously done, and even if this makes his Capote PAINFULLY human for his flaws, it also reduces him to a queer looking for love in an over-acted, and can't we say it now? played out version of a gay bildungsroman gone wrong, gone criminal? Don't we have better movies doing this, say THE TALENTED MR. RIPLEY, or AMERICAN PSYCHO? This is beside the point, since what's nauseating isn't so much the acting as the screenwriting itself that begins by building a kind of portrait of eccentricity and brilliance, insinuating the self-destruction of the author and thereby his vision of the world, and instead coughs up the wet eros of a bad romance novel, in which Capote's great despair is depicted with all the flushed embarrassment of a schoolgirl crush ("I can be myself with you. I don't want you to die." Or after Perry's death: "He said he loved me and he always will.")
I mean, o.k. Capote was fucked up, but do we really need a movie to portray him as a sad, vulnerable, needy bitch? I read him, and he's smart, driven, eloquent, surprising and unbearably exacting as a story teller. He's ATTRACTIVE and to die for good on the page. He's fucking beautiful, with all the Keatsian trouble that afflicts that word, that leaves our "heart high-sorrowful and cloyed". I guess what I don't like about this movie is that despite some good performances (Bullock as Harper Lee, Sigourney Weaver) the ruin of Capote as an author by the experiment of his final novel not only becomes a bad romance, but it gives us this version of Capote the man that is just too pathetic to love or admire. Make him a fiction worth our adoration, for christsake! At least we still have Bennett Miller's CAPOTE--which I vehemently recommend over McGrath's INFAMOUS--and Phillip Seymor Hoffman, prince of drag, to make for us a worthy idol of literary sainthood.
This is a an imaginary diary of facts, confessions, or messages. This is a notebook of working but broken ideas, lines, images, notes on books I'm reading, writers I admire, and brief fantasies of language. Here unfiltered all mannerings pseudo-private, publicized, ur-. Here I am art and unrevealed: poetic, political and pop. These are my moonlit rough beginnings and should not be taken literally, directly, truthfully, reliably, and none of it is legally binding. These lies are all choreographed, but only haphazardly. Beware.
My work has been awarded the Katherine C. Turner Prize from the Academy of American Poets, a Swarthout Award, and has twice been nominated and shortlisted for the Pushcart Prize. My first book, A Book Called Rats, was selected for the Blue Lynx Prize for Poetry (Eastern Washington University Press 2007). I'm curating editor for the online journal of poetry: PISTOLA and my poems and reviews most recently appear in Massachusetts Review, Beloit, Ploughshares and RAIN TAXI. I currently teach writing and literature at Santa Monica College in southern California.
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