94% recall


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.


8 thoughts on “94% recall

  1. Wholeheartedly agree with the comments about Catherine Keener. Being John Malkovich is one of my favourite films, and felt she was excellent in that.

  2. If you can get to see it I’d really recommend the 1967 film of ‘In Cold Blood’ as the IMDb describes:”To get the authenticity he wanted, Richard Brooks filmed in all the actual locations including the Clutter house (where the murders took place) and the actual courtroom (6 of the actual jurors were used). Even Nancy Clutter’s horse Babe was used in a few scenes. The actual gallows at the Kansas State Penitentiary were used for filming the executions, however in a 2002 interview, Charles McAtee (who was State Corrections Director for Kansas in the 1960’s), clarified the hangman in the film was an actor, not the real deal.”Unsurprisingly as far as I could see, bits of the imagery in ‘Capote’ are similar to this earlier film. There is a particularly famous scene were Perry Smith is talking about his upbringing whilst he looks out of the window towards the gallows and rain water from the outside reflects on his face allowing him to cry despite his stoicism. It looks planned, however the cinematographer, the great Conrad Hall says that it was entirely by chance, but he likes to take the credit anway.

  3. I totally agree regarding the Screen in Reigate. It is one of the few local cinemas that still has soul. Before the Screen was opened in Reigate we used to have “The Majestic Cinema”, which was a mammoth place where you could still choose and pay to sit in the circle or the stalls. When that closed, it took years for permission to re-open a cinema in Reigate, but finally the Screen arrived. A superb place for true film fans. (Tim Bowling)

  4. Well done to the Screen – I hope they get the custom to keep going. We’ve got the “Irish Film Center” here in Dublin and it’s quite wonderful but it’s in the city isn’t it… and I’m too lazy to get on a bus and go in there.. what with all the rioting we have here these days….Built a lickle cinema at home in my garage. No phones, no crisps and nobody minds if I have a glass of wine or no shoes.

  5. I agree with many of your comments about Capote. It’s funny how some actors are compelling – Chris Cooper has more acting capacity in his little finger than most cast lists these days. He was fantastic in Adaptation – which is about as close to lead role as you can get, stealing scenes from under Streep and Cage.

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