Saturday, May 19, 2007


Harper Lee and Truman Capote

Coming up with many movies on the flavour of the day is nothing new. Robin Hood had one by Patrick Bergin and Uma Thurman going head to head with Kevin Costner's, we have the clash of the space asteroids with Deep Impact and Armageddon, and volcanic eruptions with Volcano and Dante's Peak. One inevitably is more memorable than the other, partly because of the timing of the release, as well as the stars attached to the project. The biopics of Truman Capote had seen Capote make its way here in 2006, while Infamous was being held back in its local release, until now.

It's inevitable to compare the two movies. Just to get it out of the way, Capote has a better Truman Capote performance in Philip Seymour Hoffman, but in my opinion Infamous triumphs over everything else because it kept itself tight. While essentially the same story, with regards to Capote's intricate research into a Kansas family killing for his book In Cold Blood, and befriending the murderers inside the prison cell, there are many moments in Infamous where you do think that you're revisiting key scenes again, and suspect that such scenes probably stem from translating from the same script.

But Infamous had crafted a more intimate look into Capote's life during this time, as well as examine his interactions with the people around him, in particular, that with Harper Lee (Sandra Bullock). The wining, dining, mingling with the who's who of society and the stars of yesteryear are featured here as well, as is a Truman Capote who is more shrewd, calculative and at times manipulative, subconsciously or otherwise, talking behind other's backs, and using them as tests subjects on the sly. What I also liked was that it devoted some time to the friendship between Capote and Harper Lee, which was glossed over in the other film (here it was alleged that Lee's To Kill a Mockingbird's Dill character, was based on Capote. Hmm).

Infamous has more star power, even though the stars appear in short scenes throughout. There's Gwyneth Paltrow showcasing her vocals and performing a song (which interpret it anyhow you want, I thought she could have been singing about her love loss with Brad Pitt), Sigourney Weaver, Isabella Rosellini, Daniel Craig as one of the murderers Perry Smith, and director Peter Bogdanovich who did Saint Jack. Perhaps what I thought was against the grain in terms of presentation, was the characters sans Capote, who were speaking to the camera at times in mock interviews, as they share their deepest thoughts on the enigmatic man.

Toby Jones put up a commendable performance as the effeminate man (the entire gay-feminine demeanour amplified in Infamous), but should you compare his Capote with Philip Seymour Hoffman's, then it'll just fall slightly short of the benchmark. And I was surprised that Toby Jones' filmography included Dobby the House Elf in Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets.

If you've watched Capote, then you might consider giving Infamous one a skip because of the premise and storyline covered. However, if you felt that Hoffman's performance was the only saving grace in Capote, then you might want to watch this to see how much better that could have been, should this story based on the George Plimpton book be used instead.
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