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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 »

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