Infamous (2006)


Capote's flamboyant tastes are reflected in his sumptuous Manhattan apartment.

Capote’s flamboyant tastes are reflected in his sumptuous Manhattan apartment.

(2006) Biographical Drama (Warner Independent) Toby Jones, Sandra Bullock, Daniel Craig, Jeff Daniels, Hope Davis, Lee Pace, Sigourney Weaver, Gwyneth Paltrow, Isabella Rossellini, Juliet Stevenson, John Benjamin Hickey, Peter Bogdanovich, Michael Panes, Frank Curcio, Terri Bennett, Marco Perella, Libby Vellari, Terri Zee. Directed by Douglas McGrath

“Never let the truth get in the way of a good story,” but sometimes the truth is the good story. In the hands of a master storyteller, the truth can be the most powerful weapon of all.

Novelist and raconteur Truman Capote (Jones) is the toast of New York. Effeminate, flamboyant and the man everyone wanted at their parties,  he lived and moved effortlessly among the social elite of Manhattan in the 1950s,, counting Babe Paley (Weaver), wife of CBS chairman William and fashion icon Diana Vreeland (Stevenson) among his very best friends and confidantes. It was an endless parade of cocktail parties, power lunches and acclaim for his essays and novels. He was one of the few openly homosexual men able to live pretty much as he chose, with a lover (Hickey) who essentially allowed him to have sex with whomever he chose. He lived at the center of the world and knew it.

One morning a story nearly buried in the newspaper caught his attention; Family of Four Slain in Home. The Clutter family of Holcomb, Kansas had been brutally murdered, apparently without struggle and without anything taken from the home. The police were baffled and the town was deeply disturbed by so horrible a crime occurring in their midst. On impulse, Capote decides to go to Kansas to cover the murder but moreover its effect on the town. To aid him, he brings his childhood friend Harper Lee (Bullock) whose own novel To Kill a Mockingbird had just been published.

Once he gets there, the outrageous Capote fits in like a clown at a funeral. The dour district attorney Dewey (Daniels) isn’t inclined to grant the diminutive Capote special access and most of the other reporters make him the butt of their jokes. To his chagrin, Capote is mistaken for a woman on more than one occasion. Finally, with the charm of Southern belle Lee, he begins to make some headway among the suspicious Midwesterners, with tales of his dealings with Hollywood celebrities. That’s when the murderers are caught.

At first, they seem an odd pair. Richard Hickock (Pace) is loud and boisterous, young and terribly over his head. Perry Smith (Craig) is taciturn and sullen, almost paranoid. He knows what the future holds for him, and it is not rosy. The only control he has is whether or not he is exploited for the ends of others, and he thinks Capote smells of it. Capote, on the other hand, has astutely seen that the focus of the book has to change; from the effect of the murders on the townspeople, to something completely new and revolutionary; a true crime story told with the tools of a novel. In order to make it work, he needs the co-operation of the accused killers. While Hickock, with the promise of money, is eager to oblige, Smith refuses. Capote tries to woo them with porn and later, with literature. Slowly, grudgingly, Capote gets Smith to soften. Eventually the two are confiding in each other, but with the gallows looming over the two killers, Capote finds himself in an awful position as he writes what will be a classic novel – In Cold Blood.

Jones, who at the time was best known as the voice of Dobby the House Elf in Harry Potter series is truly a revelation here. He doesn’t just portray Capote, he inhabits the role as closely as an actor can. He is utterly believable from the moment he steps on-camera, and while Phillip Seymour Hoffman may have gotten the Oscar for essentially the same part, Jones may have actually delivered the superior performance. It doesn’t hurt that he physically resembles the late author.

Craig plays a decidedly un-Bond-like character. His Perry Smith is prone to fits of rage but is full of genuine remorse. He is the kind of man that can slip a pillow under a frightened boy’s head to make him comfortable, then shoot him in the head with a shotgun at point blank range moments later. Craig brings the role to life, making the notorious convicted killer as human as someone capable of that kind of horror can be. Bullock, who has been doing some of the best acting of her career in recent years (Crash and The Blind Side for example) is again excellent here as the shy, reclusive Lee who is capable of warmth and charm but seems more comfortable in Capote’s shadow, even though she was certainly his equal as a writer. Daniels, Pace, Weaver and Stevenson deliver strong performances in small roles.

The bleakness of small-town Kansas in winter contrasts with the bright sophistication of New York City, and the production design team does an excellent job bringing both locations to life. Director McGrath doesn’t resort to gimmicks to tell his story as recent movies set in this time period often do, but rather prefers to allow the story to tell itself, feeling that the story is sufficient. That’s a wise choice.

The movie had the great misfortune to be released after Capote. It unfortunately suffers from the comparison and while in many ways it’s a better movie, in many ways it isn’t as good – the Hoffman film has a bit more depth to it as Infamous essentially concentrates on a short period in Capote’s life whereas Capote gives us more perspective of who the author was as a person.

The recreation of the murders is a bit intense and there is a sexual encounter between Capote and another man that may be a bit much for the impressionable. Otherwise, you should absolutely see this movie, I say. Yes, some will say it covers the same ground as Capote – and it does – but let’s face it, this takes a far different approach to the subject than Capote did, and Jones’ performance is so authentic that you should see the film just for that. This is one of those hidden gems that got almost no notice during its initial theatrical release, overshadowed by a bigger star and better promotion; I can’t recommend this enough.

WHY RENT THIS: A career-defining performance by Jones. Strong supporting cast. McGrath wisely allows the story to stand on its own.
WHY RENT SOMETHING ELSE: Lacks context.
FAMILY MATTERS: There is a fair amount of foul language, some violence and brief sexual situations.
TRIVIAL PURSUITS: Sigourney Weaver’s first film role was in Annie Hall which also featured the real Truman Capote.
NOTABLE HOME VIDEO FEATURES: None listed.
BOX OFFICE PERFORMANCE: $2.6M on a $13M production budget.
SITES TO SEE: Amazon, iTunes, Flixster, Vudu
COMPARISON SHOPPING: Capote
FINAL RATING: 8/10
NEXT: Into the Grizzly Maze

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Florida Film Festival 2012


That time of year is upon us as the Florida Film Festival will return for its 21st year on April 13th through April 22nd. The FFF’s unique combination of exciting films, delicious food and fun make it one of the most laid-back, enjoyable film festivals anywhere. It is also one of the best-curated – two out of the last three years the movie I chose as best of the year was one I saw right here at the Florida Film Festival. That gives you an idea of the quality of the films selected year after year.

Why go to a film festival? Aren’t they for film snobs so they can get together and watch subtitled and indie films while looking down their noses at mainstream movies? Maybe at some festivals but not this one. The people who attend the Florida Film Festival are film lovers; their only criterion is that the movie have something to offer. Sure, they might turn up their noses at movies that aren’t made well or don’t have anything in particular to say but for the most part the people who are regular attendees at the FFF are people who see a lot of movies, mainstream as well as independent.

And these aren’t all movies about 20-something hipsters in complicated relationships while living in lofts in New York City; at the FFF you’ll find children’s films, horror movies, classic films, action films, hysterically funny shorts, compelling documentaries and musicals. There is literally something for every taste in movies and every kind of story imaginable. If you are a little open-minded and like to have a good time, this is the party you’re missing and trust me, it’s one you want to go to.

There are special food events where celebrity chefs show off their skills; there are movies that take special pride in our Florida home as Florida-bred filmmakers show why this area is rapidly becoming a spawning ground for great filmmakers. There are midnight movies showing the best in genre filmmaking from around the world. There are short films from around the world and around the corner, both animated and live action (and just for the record, the most recent winner of the Oscar for Animated Short Subject was screened at last year’s Florida Film Festival).

So what do they have in store for us this year? A wealth of great movies – over 170 features will be screened during this year’s Festival. Some of the ones I’m looking forward to are Renee, the locally made film covering the story of Renee Yohe, the inspiration for the charity group To Write Love On Her Arms (it is also the opening night film) and Jiro Dreams of Sushi, a documentary covering the world’s only three Michelin star-rated sushi chef. There’s also the latest horror film from Don Coscarelli (auteur of Phantasm and Bubba Ho-Tep) called John Dies in the End. There’s the Norwegian sexual coming of age film Turn Me On, Dammit! and the Canadian schoolroom drama Monsieur Lazhar (which was also nominated for a Best Foreign Film Oscar this year although it didn’t win), not to mention the Paul Simon documentary Under African Skies and the sophisticated animated feature A Cat in Paris.

Some that I’m planning to see (among most of the ones above as well) include Salt of the Earth (the sequel to Mid-August Lunch), the thriller Headhunters, Luc Besson’s biopic of Aung San Suu Kyi (the pro-democracy activist and Nobel laureate under house arrest in Myanmar) The Lady and the French box office record breaker The Intouchables. Those whose tastes lean towards classic movies will be thrilled to hear that among those classics screening this year include Marriage Italian Style, To Kill a Mockingbird, Monty Python and the Holy Grail and Liberty Heights.

Of note is the Rick Springfield documentary Affair of the Heart. Made by local documentary director Sylvia Caminer, it set a Florida Film Festival record by selling out it’s Thursday night screening in less than an hour (it doesn’t hurt that Springfield will be making an appearance at the screening). There are a few tickets left for the Saturday noon screening on April 14th if you’re still looking to see it – it’s supposed to be an amazing documentary and from the clips I’ve seen it is going to appeal to his fans and non-fans alike.

And I could go on and on – but you get the point. There are some really good movies, several of which are most likely destined for my year-end top ten. There is the good food not only at the Enzian and Eden Bar but also at events hosted by Luma of Winter Park, Whole Foods Market and of course the Opening Night Party, featuring food from some of the best restaurants in Central Florida. There are great venues including the Enzian itself, The Regal in Winter Park Village and Central Park in downtown Winter Park. You can find more ticket information for the Festival and information about all the movies and shorts being screened at their website here.

So keep an eye on Cinema365 for more information about upcoming celebrity appearances at the Festival, reviews of the movies being screened and further preview information about the Festival. This year looks to be bigger and better than ever and we wouldn’t want you to miss a thing.

Tickets for individual films run at $10 apiece (once they go on sale – see website for details) and packages start as low as $50 (and usually include goodies like posters or programs) or you can go whole hog and get yourself a pass which gets you into any and/or all screenings. Those start at $450 and go up to $1000 a pass (for the film lover who has everything – and wants more). So yeah, ten bucks a ticket isn’t all that bad and even if you just pick a single film to see, you’ll be hooked for life. There’s nothing quite like a film festival and there are none quite like the Florida Film Festival. See for yourself – you’ll be thanking me for it later.