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THE OTHER CAPOTE MOVIE

Toby Jones.jpg

David Kamp writes...

I was going to hold off on writing about Infamous, Douglas McGrath’s film concerning Truman Capote and the genesis of In Cold Blood, until a date closer to its scheduled autumn 2006 release. But esteemed Film Snob critic David Thomson recently attended an advance screening of the movie, and he has written such an astute, exhortatory analysis of it for the U.K.’s Sunday Independent (read Thomson’s article here) that I’ll put in my two cents now.

I can’t pretend to be impartial; Doug McGrath’s a pal, and way back when, after he’d acquired the movie rights to George Plimpton’s oral history of Capote’s checkered life and adapted it into a screenplay, he started asking acquaintances which actors we thought might make a good Truman. Lots of names were idly tossed about–Tobey Maguire, David Spade, Linda Hunt–but the consensus was that the best possible choice was Philip Seymour Hoffman. Great! Send the script over! Then it turned out that Hoffman had been tapped for a different filmmaker’s Truman Capote/In Cold Blood movie. Uh-oh.

Infamous was completed last year, but its release was (and continues to be) held back for obvious reasons. The precedent that springs to mind is when Stephen Frears’ Dangerous Liaisons beat Milos Forman’s Valmont to the theaters by a few months, both films sourced from the same novel by the 18th-century French author Choderlos de Laclos. Frears’s film got all the glory and good reviews, and Forman’s film was treated as an afterthought, shuffling ignominiously to cable.

I pray this doesn’t happen to Infamous, and not just because Doug McGrath is a lovely man. Plenty of lovely men have made crap movies, but this is a fantastic film of entirely different energies and qualities than Capote, and its lead performance, by an Englishman named Toby Jones (pictured above, as Capote), probably best known in America for supplying the voice of Dobby the Elf in Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, is so beyond good, beyond kitsch, and beyond mere impersonation that he ought to succeed Hoffman next spring as Best Actor winner. (And I like Hoffman–I successfully agitated for him to be a cover story for GQ a few years back; he looked ridiculous all groomed and cleaned up on the cover, but he was a joy to interview and write about.)

David Thomson puts the predicament of Infamous brilliantly: “Understand in advance,” he writes, “that the leading arbiters of culture will tell you it’s the same thing warmed up, a story you know, a curiosity even. It’s none of those. We do not write off this year’s Hamlet because we enjoyed last year’s. We might listen to Mahler’s Ninth tonight and in a few months’ time. You do not really know this story in advance, for a very good reason: you have not been moved by it yet.”

June 28, 2006 More Film Snobbery »

SNOBSITE AWAKENS FROM MONTHLONG SLUMBER

Sometimes, a Web site gets exhausted, overextended, and just plain preoccupied. It goes dormant for weeks, un-updated, and the colors on its title page peel and fade and get unsightly splotches from water damage. (Note to Stacy, site designer: will budget cover this effect?)

Snobsite was not exactly in an abandoned building smoking crack, but it was, for much of June, in Ireland enjoying the craic. And now it’s back and active again. Thanks for your patience. Here are a bunch of bullet-point items.

–Want to hear a clip of Film Snob Lawrence Levi on the nationally syndicated program Culture Shocks with Barry Lynn? Click here and scroll down to #643, the interview with Mr. Levi dated 3/10/06. If you hit the interview with Bernard Henri-Levy dated 2/20/06, you’ve scrolled too far–and confused an Italian Jew with a French one.

–Lawrence and David Kamp also appeared on Tribeca Radio’s Alan Smithee Internet Radio Experience with Josh Horowitz and Josh Block, but they don’t have their archiving act together yet so it’s not available for podcast. But keep checking.

–Good lord, Yacht Rock has been canceled!

–Rock Snob couture! Check out all the stuff this dude on eBay regularly has for sale.

–British Rock and Film Snob Humo(u)rist Peter Serafinowicz has edited together his two previous Macca-heavy video shorts and added a new Snobberific bit pertaining to Scorsese’s Raging Bull. Watch it here. Peter alleges that a TV series based on this stuff is in the offing.

–We lament the recent passings of two very different Snob causes célèbre, Arif Mardin (who warrants his own entry on page 65 of The Rock Snob*s Dictionary) and György Ligeti (who, perhaps, should have been an entry in The Film Snob*s Dictionary). Actually, maybe the two men weren’t so different: Both were responsible for stunning soundtrack music involving strangely timbred high voices. Mardin, a longtime arranger and producer, revived the careers of fading ’60s Britpoppers the Bee Gees by encouraging Barry Gibb to try out falsetto vocals and take up R&B rhythms. This experiment, first attempted on the song “Nights on Broadway,” set the stage for “Jive Talkin’,” “You Should Be Dancing,” and, in 1977, the whole Saturday Night Fever juggernaut, whose songs should simply be considered pleasures, not guilty pleasures. Before and after the Bee Gees, Mardin was at the helm of some of the twentieth century’s great recorded music: Aretha Franklin’s late-’60s peak, Dusty Springfield’s Snob-tastic Dusty in Memphis (“Son of a Preacherman” and all that) and Chaka Khan’s “I Feel for You.” Ligeti, on the other hand, was the avant-garde composer responsible for one of the most evocative pieces of music ever used in a film, Lux Aeterna, otherwise known as “the scary, disembodied yi-yi-yeeeee voices during the weirdest scenes in Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey.” Kubrick didn’t seek Ligeti’s consent to use the piece for the film (along with two others in the Ligeti canon, Atmospheres and Requiem for Soprano, Mezzo Soprano, Two Mixed Choirs and Orchestra), and evidently Ligeti wasn’t happy about this. But the microtonal a capella weirdout that is Lux Aeterna was the perfect musical expression of the spooky unknowability of outer space, suggesting the language of an advanced alien race, or the ghostly cries of the explorers who’d come before, or the electronic hum of the matrix that secretly determines all experience. It’s fun to ponder what the recording session for the German Lux Aeterna choir was like–did the participants sway and jovially sing through mikes while clutching headphones in “We Are the World”-chorister style, all the while making terrifying sounds?

June 27, 2006 More Declamations »

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