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Bennett Miller
Philip Seymour Hoffman, Catherine Keener, Clifton Collins Jr., Chris Cooper, Bruce Greenwood, Bob Balaban, Amy Ryan, Mark Pellegrino, Allie Mickelson
Writing Credits:
Dan Futterman, Gerald Clarke (book)

In November, 1959, the shocking murder of a smalltown Kansas family captures the imagination of Truman Capote (Philip Seymour Hoffman), famed author of "Breakfast at Tiffany's." With his childhood friend Harper Lee (Catherine Keener), writer of the soon-to-be published "To Kill a Mockingbird," Capote sets out to investigate, winning over the locals despite his flamboyant appearance and style. When he forms a bond with the killers and their execution date nears, the writing of "In Cold Blood," a book that will change the course of American Literature, takes a drastic toll on Capote, changing him in ways he never imagined. Stellar performances from Hoffman and Keener, as well as Academy Award winner Chris Cooper are why critics are calling Capote a "must-see movie."

Box Office:
$7 million.
Opening Weekend
$324.857 thousand on 12 screens.
Domestic Gross
$20.129 million.

Rated R

Widescreen 2.35:1/16x9
English Dolby Digital 5.1
French Dolby Digital 5.1

Runtime: 114 min.
Price: $28.95
Release Date: 3/21/2006

• Audio Commentary With Director Bennett Miller and Actor Philip Seymour Hoffman
• Audio Commentary With Director Bennett Miller and Cinematographer Adam Kimmel
• “Answered Prayers” Featurette
• “Making Capote” Two-Part Documentary
• Previews


Sony 36" WEGA KV-36FS12 Monitor; Sony DA333ES Processor/Receiver; Panasonic CV-50 DVD Player using component outputs; Michael Green Revolution Cinema 6i Speakers (all five); Sony SA-WM40 Subwoofer.


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Capote (2005)

Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (February 27, 2006)

I suspect the Oscar class of 2005 will go down as one of the Academy’s most unusual. That group accentuated small “indie” films and didn’t present any of the usual accessible efforts. Steven Spielberg is the only big name among the directors, and as I write this in late February, none of the five Best Picture nominees is within sniffing distance of a $100 million gross. With $72 million to date, Brokeback Mountain is closest, but it’ll need a big showing at the Oscars to make it past $100.

None of the other four is remotely close to $100 million. You wanna know the last time that none of the five Best Picture nominees earned more than $100 million? If we accept the data from IMDB, 1985 is the most recent occasion during which this occurred. The Color Purple came close, but apparently none of the five picks passed the century mark.

Given that it used to be much more difficult to make $100 million, this fact is astonishing. It serves to spotlight the smaller nature of the 2005 nominees, and Capote stands as the most unassuming of the bunch.

Rather than attempt a full biopic of writer Truman Capote’s life, this flick focuses on the research for his famed book In Cold Blood. The movie starts with information about the killing of the Clutter family in Kansas. Capote (Philip Seymour Hoffman) sees a blurb about this in the newspaper and decides to write his own story. Along with his assistant and long-time friend Nelle Harper Lee (Catherine Keener), he heads out to Kansas to research the case.

When the authorities bring in the alleged murderers, Capote gets to know them as well. He spends only a little time with Richard Hickock (Mark Pellegrino), as he prefers to focus on intelligent, sensitive Perry Smith (Clifton Collins Jr.) instead. Capote devotes many hours of discussion to Smith and appears to be sensitive to the killer’s case, though Capote usually seems more interested in his own work. The film follows the writing of the book and the complications along the way.

To say the least, Capote doesn’t paint a particularly flattering portrait of its main subject. The movie often captures the writer in open lies, and he manipulates the desires and needs of Smith to his own end. It’s clear he doesn’t really care about people beyond what use they can be to him.

However, this doesn’t mean that Capote offers an unsympathetic look at the author. The film’s epitaph makes it clear how the case negatively affected Capote, and we often see signs of the psychological damage his childhood left with him. Capote isn’t a lovable cad or a cold-hearted jerk; he’s much more complex than that, and we spend much of the movie in an attempt to figure out his personality.

Much of the credit for the film’s depth comes from Hoffman’s outstanding performance as Capote. Given the author’s rather flamboyant personality, it would be easy to turn him into a cheap stereotype. Capote was the kind of character comics loved to mimic due to his fey tendencies. Hoffman doesn’t hide those attributes, but he makes sure Capote comes across as more than just a cocktail party jokester.

Capote’s inherently restrained personality causes this to be even more difficult than one might expect. Not a character given to big, theatrical outbursts, Hoffman has to portray the role’s emotional depth via small gestures and looks most of the time. Even his big crying scene toward the end remains really subdued and never milks the pathos of the situation. The subtlety inherent in Hoffman’s performance means that we can better observe the role on its own terms and not through a veil of histrionics.

Director Bennett Miller doesn’t do a lot to expand on the movie’s themes or characters. He knows enough to leave things in Hoffman’s hands and get out of his way. When folks remember Capote in the future, it likely will be due to Hoffman’s stellar performance more than anything else. He single-handedly makes the movie memorable and effective.

The DVD Grades: Picture C+/ Audio B-/ Bonus B

Capote appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 2.35:1 on this single-sided, double-layered DVD; the image has been enhanced for 16X9 televisions. Despite many positives, too many problems cropped up here for this to be a good transfer.

The main concerns came from source flaws. Capote debuted less than half a year ago, so there’s no reason for it to suffer from so many defects. Small specks and bits of grit popped up with moderate frequency throughout the film, and I saw a few other blotches as well. These weren’t constant, but they shouldn’t have existed at all. I recognize that Capote was a cheap indie flick, but there’s no reason inexpensive movies have to look so dirty.

Some minor issues with sharpness also occurred, mainly due to light edge enhancement. Wide shots tended to be a little fuzzy. Otherwise the movie featured accurate definition. I noticed no issues with jagged edges or shimmering.

A film with a tremendously subdued palette, I found little to discuss in regard to colors. A few shots in Spain opened up the tones, but most of the movie stayed virtually monochromatic. The flick went with a light greenish tint much of the time, and within those constraints, the hues seemed fine. Blacks were dense and deep, while shadows looked acceptably smooth and clean. The source flaws remained my biggest complaint about this transfer.

Although I found no obvious flaws in the Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack of Capote, it didn’t have many strengths either. However, I didn’t regard the soundfield’s restricted scope as a problem since a drama like this didn’t demand a lively setting. Most of the audio concentrated on speech. Score showed decent stereo presence, and effects opened up with some mild environmental elements. The surrounds echoed those and did little else.

Audio quality was good. Speech seemed concise and intelligible, and music was similarly solid. The score demonstrated nice range and definition. Effects were a minor aspect of the track, but they always appeared clean and accurate. This was a perfectly unexceptional track, but it accomplished its goals.

Heading to the set’s extras, we find two separate audio commentaries. The first features director Bennett Miller and actor Philip Seymour Hoffman. Both sit together for their running, screen-specific chat. They address the usual assortment of subjects. They discuss casting and performances, sets and locations, adapting real life, changes to the script and cut sequences. Hoffman provides the best material here with his occasional insights into his work. However, these don’t pop up as often as I’d like, and a lot of the commentary offers little more than banal happy talk. We get a lot of praise for all involved but rarely dig deeper than that. There’s some good info on display, so it’s too bad you have to wade through so much nothing to get there.

For the second audio commentary, we hear from Miller and cinematographer Adam Kimmel. They also sit together and present a running, screen-specific discussion. (Screenwriter Dan Futterman was supposed to participate as well, but apparently his wife gave birth hours before the recording session, so he’s absent.) They touch on many of the same subjects addressed in the first commentary, though with a more technical focus. We hear less about the acting and more about cinematography and other nuts and bolts elements, which seems logical.

This means the commentary occasionally repeats information from the first one. Heck, Miller even makes sure to say “end of act one” at the same point in both! I must admit I liked this track better than its predecessor, though. Miller recorded it second, so he seems surer of himself. He also interacts more naturally with Kimmel, and this shows throughout the piece. The commentary still shows many of the same flaws as the first one, and it doesn’t present a wealth of new info. Nonetheless, it gets into the decision-making behind the film with reasonable depth and stands as the stronger track of the pair.

A featurette called Answered Prayers runs for six minutes, 43 seconds. It presents archival materials, movie snippets and notes from Hoffman, Miller, Kimmel and biographer Gerald Clarke. We also get some old clips of Truman Capote himself. The show offers a few tidbits about Capote’s life as well as his work on In Cold Blood. This serves as a passable overview but doesn’t present a lot of depth. A meatier biography of Capote would have been much preferable to this quickie.

The two-part Making Capote fills a total of 35 minutes, 39 seconds. We hear from Miller, Hoffman, Kimmel, Clarke, screenwriter Dan Futterman, producers Caroline Baron and William Vince, and actors Catherine Keener, Chris Cooper, and Clifton Collins Jr., production designer Jess Gonchor, costume designer Kasia Walicka-Maimone, and editor Christopher Tellefsen. Part One covers the participants’ interest in the subject and the construction of the script, casting and performances. Part Two goes over the movie’s visual style, sets and costumes, shooting in Winnipeg, extras, the use of the widescreen ratio, editing, and valedictory thoughts about the production.

“Making” proves quite strong. It focuses on substantial topics and investigates them with clarity and precision. Like the movie itself, the program lacks flashiness. It shows us the information in a simple, concise way and gives us many good details about the production. Inevitably, some of these repeat from the commentaries, but the addition of visuals and other speakers ensures that we find plenty of fresh notes. “Making” offers a very solid documentary.

The DVD opens with a few ads. We get clips for Friends with Money and The White Countess. These also appear in the Previews area along with trailers for Breakfast on Pluto, The Three Burials of Melquiades Estrada, Cache, The Memory of a Killer, Where the Truth Lies, Thumbsucker, The Patriot Extended Cut, Junebug, Saraband, The Passenger and The Dying Gaul.

I wouldn’t consider Capote to be a great film, but it does boast one stellar performance. Actually, the entire cast works well, but Philip Seymour Hoffman makes the movie memorable all on his own. The DVD presents somewhat messy picture along with decent audio and a reasonably informative set of extras. If for no reason other than to check out Hoffman’s amazing work, Capote deserves a look.

Viewer Film Ratings: 4.4 Stars Number of Votes: 25
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