Capote US Theatrical Release: September 2, 2005 (Telluride), September 30, 2005 (Sony Pictures Classics/ United Artists) US DVD Release: March 21, 2006 Running Time: 1:54:32 (29 chapter stops) Rating: R (For Some Violent Images and Brief Strong Language) Video: 2.35:1 anamorphic (Extra Features: 1.33:1 non-anamorphic) Audio: English DD5.1, French DD2.0 (Extra Features: English DD2.0) Subtitles: English, French, Spanish, Portuguese, Bahasa, Cantonese, Mandarin, Korean, Thai (Extra Features: none) TV-Generated Closed Captions: English (Extra Features: None) Menus: Some intro animation. Packaging: Standard keepcase; insert features cover images from other Sony Pictures Classics titles. MSRP: $28.95 THE WAY I FEEL ABOUT IT: 4/5 A good writer can really get inside his subject. A great writer manages to bring the reader in with him. In the late 1950s, few authors could rival Truman Capote. His stories and articles were the talk of the town, and he was the life of every party. His profession had taken him to the top of the world – but it was about to crush his spirit in a dark descent from which he would never quite recover. New York, 1959. Capote (Phillip Seymour Hoffman, in an Oscar-winning performance) is looking for a subject for his next work. He comes across a small article buried in the New York Times about a horrible crime committed in rural Kansas – an entire family of four has been murdered in their home. Something about the story strikes him, and he has his subject. With his friend and assistant Nelle Harper Lee (Catherine Keener), Capote sets out for Kansas to study the crime and its effect on the community. But things are not going to go entirely as he expects. The townspeople are aloof and not entirely trusting of this outsider from the big city with the curious voice and effeminate manner. Some of them are willing to talk, but in many cases, Nelle and Truman don’t have much luck getting details from them. Their luck changes when the killers are apprehended, and Capote gets a chance to spend some time with them. One of the suspects, Richard Hickock (Mark Pellegrino), fits the expected image of a homicidal drifter – grinning, hiding behind a façade of cheap witticisms, not displaying much evidence of intellectual capacity. He doesn’t seem to interest Capote much. The other, Perry Smith (Clifton Collins, Jr.), is surprisingly articulate. He appears to be much easier to read, exuding a deep sadness and loneliness like that of a child caught in circumstances that he doesn’t understand. But Perry certainly seems to understand exactly what is going on. Is his melancholy just a play for sympathy? As Capote gets to know Smith, a bond of familiarity quickly forms between them. They each faced an unhappy childhood (although Smith’s was certainly worse), and each has a literate mind (although Capote is far more sophisticated). Capote is fascinated and horrified by the parallels between himself and this brutal killer. He sums up the key theme of the story when he explains his growing obsession to Nelle: “It’s as if Perry and I grew up in the same house and one day he stood up and went out the back door while I went out the front.” As Capote becomes more involved with the project, his personal relationships begin to suffer. His companion Jack Dunphy (Bruce Greenwood), a fellow writer, takes a back seat, and he grows distant from his childhood friend Nelle just as her star is rising with the premiere of the film of her novel, To Kill A Mockingbird. At the party, Truman is not dishing clever anecdotes to fawning crowds of partygoers, but drinking alone at the bar. When Lee tries to approach him, she is greeted only by an alcoholic coldness. As the years pass and the killers await a series of appeals, Capote (not to mention his publisher, played by Bob Balaban) becomes anxious to finish the book. He can’t bring himself to write the last chapter until the story has reached closure – which almost certainly means a double execution. His sympathy for Perry Smith gradually shifts as he tries to distance himself from the doomed prisoner. Eventually, Capote becomes even closer to Smith in a way that he never dreamed of, as he struggles with the thought that he might be wishing for a speedy end to the man’s life – and perhaps this is the realization from which he can never fully recover. Hoffman layers his stellar performance on top of a solid imitation of Truman Capote’s idiosyncratic mannerisms. It never devolves into a spoof, which is quite a feat considering how funny Capote could be. He really makes this character study work, supported by a very solid cast of always-reliable character actors like Keener, Greenwood, Balaban, and Chris Cooper (as the local investigator). THE WAY I SEE IT: 3/5 Capote has a grainy, washed-out look that reflects its grim subject matter. There are hardly any blues or reds in most scenes, which emphasize dull grays and browns. Only a few scenes are lit well, and none of them are in Kansas, where the bulk of the action occurs. Much of the film is dark and shadowy in a visual as well as an emotional sense, with deep blacks and a good range of grays. The image is mostly OK, although it sometimes lacks detail. Some scenes have edge enhancement that really sticks out, while others don’t seem to have had much processing at all. For whatever reason, the source print was less than perfect, with a surprising number of scratches and specks for such a recent film. THE WAY I HEAR IT: 3.5/5 While there are not a lot of fancy effects or standout music, the mix creates a nice ambience. The surrounds reflect the echoes of cold stone prison walls, the applause of a theater crowd, and the chatter of pleasantly intoxicated party guests. The LFE kicks in now and then with a little extra punch, just to keep things from getting to comfortable. THE SWAG: 3/5 (rating combines quality and quantity) Commentary With Director Bennett Miller and Star Phillip Seymour Hoffman This track mainly covers the performances and some of the choices made in the story and script. There are some slow spots, but for the most part it’s pretty interesting. Commentary With Director Bennett Miller and Cinematographer Adam Kimmel This commentary focuses on the production and photography. It also has a bit of dead air here and there, but also features plenty of worthwhile material. Featurettes Three featurettes are included. They may be played separately or in sequence via the trusty Play All button. Answered Prayers (6:43) This brief documentary talks about Truman Capote’s life and work. It’s OK, but so short that it mostly succeeds in whetting one’s appetite to learn more. It would have been nice to have included something more substantial, like an episode of A&E Biography. Making Capote Part I (17:14) A nice making-of that covers the script development and pre-production, consisting mainly of interviews with the crew. Making Capote Part II (18:25) The second making-of goes behind the scenes of the actual production. It’s also pretty good, but could have included more actual production footage. Trailers When the disc is first inserted, the trailers for Friends With Money and The White Countess play automatically. They may be skipped. Friends With Money (1:39) (DD5.1; 2.35:1 anamorphic) The Three Burials Of Melquiades Estrada (1:56) (DD2.0; 2.35:1 anamorphic) The Memory Of A Killer (1:42) (DD2.0; 2.35:1 anamorphic) Thumbsucker (2:16) (DD2.0; 2.35:1 anamorphic) Junebug (1:59) (DD2.0; 1.78:1 anamorphic) Saraband (1:21) (DD2.0; 1.78:1 anamorphic) The Passenger (2:09) (DD2.0; 1.78:1 anamorphic) Breakfast On Pluto (1:53) (DD2.0; 2.35:1 anamorphic) The White Countess (1:56) (DD2.0; 1.78:1 anamorphic) Caché (2:09) (DD5.1; 1.78:1 anamorphic) Where The Truth Lies (2:02) (DD2.0; 2.35:1 anamorphic) The Patriot (Extended Cut) (1:34) (DD2.0; 1.78:1 non-anamorphic) The Dying Gaul (2:20) (DD2.0; 1.78:1 anamorphic) SUMMING IT ALL UP The Way I Feel About It: 4/5 The Way I See It: 3/5 The Way I Hear It: 3.5/5 The Swag: 3/5 Capote is a fascinating, if overly dark, portrait of a man’s descent from the top of his profession and the good life to a state where he questions his own humanity and never truly finds an answer. It revolves around a star-making, Oscar-winning performance, and wouldn’t have worked without it. Although the print used for the transfer wasn’t exactly perfect, the A/V quality is nice and reflects the very specific look and feel intended by the filmmakers. The extra features are copious and interesting as well. This isn’t a feel-good picture by any stretch, but in many ways it’s a real tour-de-force and will be appreciated for the intelligent and thought-provoking piece that it is, as well as for the slice of true life that it represents.