There but for the grace of God...
This is a riveting movie about the dark side of human nature. Why was
Truman Capote so drawn to the multiple, apparently senseless killings
in rural Kansas? All the reviewers miss this deep meaning, but I can
tell you the deep dark secret, never mentioned, but inescapable is---
THERE BUT FOR THE GRACE OF GOD GO I.
Capote identifies with the killers, especially Perry, who is also from
the south, also abandoned by his mother and ultimately raised in an
orphanage, where we presume he had the usual care, abuse and neglect.
Capote had a similar abandoning mother ("we were both abandoned by our
mothers"), but at least had the saving grace of being raised by a
relative, an aunt. Probably his childhood had a modicum of love and
security, but just the bare minimum, as Capote can identify with 'cold
blood.' He also identified with Perry's creativity, as he was literate
and artistic. After hearing Perry's childhood story, he said, "we were
raised in the same house, and one day you went out the back door and I
went out the front." This was the most telling moment in understanding
In a way, Capote was as cold-blooded as Perry, using him to write the
story that would make him famous and earn him a goldmine. He was shown
to have two faces, the sympathetic one toward Perry, gaining his trust
and finally getting the details of the killing to end his book, and the
other, the egomaniacal entertainer at Manhattan parties. He went from
eccentric to an out of control alcoholic, but he was always discreet,
never getting falling down drunk, but always sipping a drink. His
writer friends were concerned for him but there was nothing they could
do, nothing anyone could do.
The closing credits said he died in 1984 from the complications of
alcoholism, but Ebert wrote that he died of an overdose. I figure he
ultimately could not live with himself or his memories, knowing that
just under the surface, he was a cold blooded murderer too.
And such is the human condition, that some emerge from a traumatic
childhood and become an overt monster, and some emerge from a traumatic
childhood, an eccentric celebrity, fiendishly brilliant, and a covert
Audiences will be drawn to this by the millions and will be affected by
viewing this, because all of us have a dark side. We can identify and
there but for the grace of God go I!.
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Tour de force for Hoffman- Mild spoilers, as if you don't know the story already.. come on!
If Phillip Seymour Hoffman does not get the Oscar for best actor, there
is no justice. His total immersion portrayal of the brilliant but
haunted child-like genius writer Truman Capote is a living homage to
the late author. I sat in a small venue, so mesmerized was I that I was
leaning forward in my seat propping an elbow on the back of the seat in
front of me. I was with a friend, and the theater was lightly occupied.
You could have heard a pin drop in there. Even the munching of popcorn
or slurping of soda was kept to a minimum, nobody wanted to miss a
line, or be distracted and miss a gesture.
The laughter from the audience was genuine, not mocking and very savvy.
I was in a good group that afternoon.
The angst and dread and anxiety and the conflicting emotions of pride
and revulsion mixed liberally with a sexual undercurrent so strong you
would feel like being in a rip-tide, yet he knows his subject matter
must die in order to fulfill his destiny as the first writer of "true
crime" genre nonfiction.
You can taste the drinks, smell the cigarettes, see the depression
overwhelm him as he realizes he must hope for death to consummate
evolution to another level of creativity.
Interestingly, the color treatment of this film cleverly intersperses
with stark high-contrast lighting to simulate black and white like the
gory crime scene pictures or the press and publicity stills taken for
the book, In Cold Blood.
I hate to say this, but Robert Blake will always be Perry Smith to me,
even though Clifton Collins, Jr. does a marvelous job translating the
child-like friendliness and simmering rage inside this cold blooded
killer. Blakes Smith will always seem a bit more sensitive, terrified
and at the same time exhilarated and turned-on by the whole spectacle
of his murderous self-immolation.
The scene showing Smith staring out a grate in the wall to watch
"Andy", the best boy in Kansas, swollen with self-indulgence waddling
out to the "corner", trying to beat the rope by weighing enough to
break it is a great homage to the original Blake "In Cold Blood". I
thought the forklift for his corpse a nice touch.
This is a marvelous snippet of time, expanded and stretching the
emotional fabric of the period in Capote's life to grab our attention
and keep it wrung out like a wet rag....cold and damp, creepy almost
but riveting, like a bloody auto accident. You can't look at it, and
you can't look away.