A tale of two films

· culture ·

Nearly a year ago, we watched a film called Capote (IMDB page), which we both enjoyed a lot. Last week, we watched another very similar film about Truman Capote, called Infamous. It made for an interesting comparison. While both films are based on different books ('Capote' is based on a book by Gerald Clarke, and 'Infamous' on one by George Plimpton), they both document the same event: the research that Capote did for his book 'In Cold Blood' about the murder of a family in Kansas.

Both feature excellent leads and supporting actors (Philip Seymour Hoffman in 'Capote' and Toby Jones in 'Infamous'), but the feel and tone of both films is quite different. 'Capote' was quite dark, leaving you with the predominant feeling that Truman was a cold manipulator, consuming the story of the two killers to build his literary reputation. In contrast, in 'Infamous', Capote came across as a much warmer, more charming and witty person, damaged by his upbringing and finding something of a soulmate in Perry Smith (Daniel Craig). You got glimpses of his coldness every now and then, but those references were much more ambiguous. In 'Infamous', Perry becomes enraged after pouring his heart out to Capote, when he finds out he plans to title his book 'In Cold Blood', seeing it as a betrayal. Capote tries to persuade him that the title refers in equal measure to the coldness of the authorities, preparing the execute the men in a pre-meditated way that he feels is almost worse than the original crime. But in 'Capote', it could equally apply to Truman's own enterprise of writing about the details of the crime.

'Infamous' was released about a year after 'Capote', and I can imagine that none of the people involved with it were too pleased about the timing. However, both films work rather well together, showing subtly different aspects of an inherently ambiguous story.