Saw this at Reigate Screen this afternoon. What a bleak film. I have been furiously reading In Cold Blood, trying to finish it before seeing the film of its conception, and I didn’t quite manage it, but the way it’s written – so evocative, so thorough, so vivid – I feel I’ve been inside the Clutter house where the mutliple homicide took place in November 1959, smelt the wheat of Holcomb in Kansas, met Perry Smith and Dick Hickock, the killers, lived in the family household of sheriff Alvin Dewey while they were tracked down. So actually seeing the story dramatised, none of it was any great surprise. The bit that’s not in the book, of course, is the author himself. He never mentions himself, playing the silent, omniscient observer. With 94% recall.
It goes without saying that Philip Seymour Hoffman is impeccable in what might have been a cartoon role. I’ve seen Truman Capote on film and he really did speak like that! Effete and false and almost wilfully irritating, that’s just the way it was. And Hoffman brings such a subtle depth to him. This is not a heroic portrayal – he’s selfish, opportunistic, manipulative – but it beats most standard literary biopics. Yes, we see him typing, but not once does he take a sheet of paper out of the typewriter and screw it up into a ball, which I thought was law in this genre.
Let’s hear it for the supporting cast: Clifton Collins Jr, who should have been Oscar-nominated for his Perry Smith (you may have seen him in Traffic or Tigerland, but this should improve his stock); Catherine Keener, who’s now been in so many unrewarded supporting roles it was a moral victory to see her Oscar-nominated; and Chris Cooper, who, as my wife observed, is the new JT Walsh, and there’s no shame in that. He’s a walking mark of quality. Let’s hope he finds a lead part for himself at some stage. (And I don’t mean in a John Sayles movie. Nobody watches those. Mind you, look at David Strathairn, another Sayles repertory player who came good this year. It can happen.)
Beautifully shot and composed by director Bennett Miller, Capote is a quiet masterpiece, I think. As long as you can get over the voice. Now, I must finish the book. You can see why it is purported to have changed American literature. It’s the kind of writing I read the New Yorker for (do all their writers have 94% recall?), and the kind you don’t really get in British magazines. (I know, not much of an anti-American am I?)
A note about Reigate Screen. I feel privileged to have it as my local. It’s small but it has a big heart. Screen 2 seats 139. The massive Screen 1 seats . . . 142. Quite a difference. And the manager, Toby, comes in before the film starts and tells you about other films they’ve got coming up (including an ongoing season of foreign films on a Tuesday night). What a tremendous individual. I have actually learned to despise going to the cinema in recent years with its texting, crisp-rustling, talking idiots, but Reigate Screen has changed my opinion.