"Capote" vs. "Infamous"

Discussion in 'Visual Arts' started by Solaris, Jan 16, 2008.

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  1. Solaris

    Solaris a bullet in flight Thread Starter

    New Orleans, LA
    Since the previous thread on this subject is in the archive here


    I'm starting this new one to discuss the two movies.

    I rented Infamous the other night and now that I've had a chance to watch both the film and the film-with-director's-commentary, I find myself ambivalent. The film itself, while loaded with detail, seems superficial, even down to Toby Jones' well-observed performance.

    The cast, packed with big names, seems to be play-acting, though, rather than giving convincing performances, and I think the high profile status of these actors works against the film in no small degree. I kept thinking, "there's Peter Bogdonavich pretending to be Bennett Cerf, there's Sandra Bullock pretending to be Harper Lee (bad suth'n accent and all), there's Sigourney Weaver pretending to be Babe Paley," etc. Skilled character actors would have preferable and much less distracting.

    In his commentary, director Douglas McGrath goes into detail about what was true in the film and what was embellished for dramatic effect, and it's interesting to see just how much is accurate and what he learned about Capote and this story through his research. I think that insight only partially made it to the screen, however. Never did I feel immersed in this world.

    By contrast, Capote (directed by Bennett Miller), is immersive and considerably better-made. While I still have problems with Hoffman's appearance -- he just doesn't look the part -- he is able to convey something of Capote's internal character, which is a tribute to his performance as much as to Miller's direction. Catherine Keener is really remarkable, possessing both the grace and the depth necessary to convince us that she is the woman who wrote To Kill a Mockingbird.

    What Infamous has that Capote doesn't is a sense of the author's world outside of the writing of In Cold Blood. Infamous gives a sense of just how deeply writing the book affected him, and what an awakening the experience was from the glitzy socialite dream he'd been living. Capote addresses this, but not as effectively or in enough depth, I think.

    As I watched Infamous, I wondered what Toby Jones' performance might have been like had he been directed by Bennett Miller or, better still, how Capote might have been had Jones starred instead of Hoffman. While, as I said above, I don't think Jones conveys the depth that Hoffman does, Jones is very close. He has the look, the voice, the body language, but I really think what he was missing was the right director to bring out that extra dimension.

    Ultimately, I think that the definitive film of this story lies somewhere between these two movies. The ideal solution would be a combination of the best elements of both of them.
  2. Larry L

    Larry L Forum Resident

    Allen, Texas
    I like both films. I agree that Toby Jones looks more the part and he's most excellent in that role. What freaks me out about Phillip Seymour Hoffman is that he could actually pull it off. He is such an amazing actor,
    I can't pick one film over the other.
  3. mark f.

    mark f. Forum Resident

    I liked "Capote" a lot better - I just found it more compelling. I thought "Infamous" was a bit unfocused because it tried to be a character study but also a story about the events Capote was writing about. The events seemed secondary in "Capote" (the movie). The acting of the two leads is excellent in both but I just like PSH better for no real reason other than I like his acting. Hated to the placement of stars (especially Sandra Bullock) in Infamous but it's certainly not a bad movie.
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