How much pain and humiliation can an artist
inflict for the sake of his art? I ask this question for two reasons.
First is because I am planning on doing a painting and I want
to make sure I get what's coming to me. Second is because it's
posed by the movie Capote and the incorrigible behavior
of its title character.
it a matter of weighing the overall social benefit of the art
to the individual costs taken to make it? I mean, if the art is
going to be great, can he hurt more people? What if the art is
ambitious and requires a lot of hurt, but then doesn't turn out
great? Or if you just think it's going to be great and you go
ahead and hurt people based on that assumption before it is judged
by the masses?
many senior citizens would you be willing to shoot in the head
to make every twelve-year-old smile once for eight seconds? How
about for ten seconds? How many more would you kill to make those
kids smile a second time? Don't answer if you hate old people
because then you'd only be killing them to make yourself smile.
Go ahead and answer if you're like me and don't give a shit whether
or not kids are happy.
asks the question of what is acceptable in the name of art through
the story of Truman Capote, a man most of us know through lampoons
of his later, drunken years. But before that he was a brilliant
writer and chronic asshole. The movie tells how he exploited and
manipulated strangers for the sake of his true-crime masterpiece
In Cold Blood.
Seymour Hoffman plays Capote, an effeminate, lying fashion-whore
of a man able to make others feel small all the while soliciting
and needing their approval. In that way he's just like the Harelip.
One minute making you feel like dirt, the next minute coaxing
you into admitting her latest "Here I sit, all brokenhearted"
poem in the ladies' room is fucking brilliant. Well, hell, she
knows she's good because you couldn't resist going in there to
look. She raises the bar for every hack who can't think beyond
the "heart-fart" rhyme. The reference to Proust is fucking awesome.
the Harelip, Hoffman's Capote doesn't think anyone is nearly as
good or as smart as he is. He thinks he's above it all and can
use his wits to manipulate others into doing and telling him whatever
he wants. That works for a while, but few people are so stupid
they never figure out they're being used. For example, it only
took me about thirty times before I realized that Harelip wasn't
daring me to eat as many pickled eggs as I could just for the
challenge; it was because she liked seeing me vomit, and turn
green. I don't take her challenge as often anymore, and when I
do it's because I want to see me throw up.
1959, Capote went from his high-society life in New York City
to Buttfuck, Kansas ( a farm community near Armpit and Cesspool)
to write an article about the impact of some murders on idyllic
small-town life. He never entangles himself with the local people
beyond what he does to draw information from them, but he discovers
a rich source for a book in the pathetic murderer Perry Smith
(played by Clifton Collins. Jr.). Smith is extremely insecure;
he seeks validation and reassurance from Capote and willingly
gives up his diaries and secrets to get it. Capote spoonfeeds
him a string of bullshit to make him feel wanted and admired as
an intellectual, and Smith believes it because he wants to.
finds an attorney to take on Smith's appeal after he is convicted
for murder. This isn't because Capote believes in his innocence;
it's because he wants the appeal to stall the killer's execution
long enough for him to squeeze out more info for his book. Capote
believes that Smith is a disposable element of his work and ultimately
treats him as such. When he is done with him and fed up with the
book, he tells Smith what he truly has always thought of him.
fact, when Smith's conviction appeals drag on longer than Capote
wants to work on the book, he stops finding attorneys and wishes
him dead. By this time, Capote can't publish his book until Smith
is dead because he's told him so many lies about his intentions
and about how he will portray the killer.
implies that he paid for his ruthlessness for the rest of his
life as he sunk into an alcoholic stupor of shame and remorse.
I'm not sure, though. It looks like the guy was already halfway
in the bag all along and an alcoholic death was inevitable.
according to the movie, its source book, and a lot of other accounts,
Truman Capote was an asshole, but he wrote one of the classics
of American literature about this crime, In Cold Blood.
I'm sure he believed that his assholishness was justified by his
mission to make great art. In this case he succeeded. But what
if he failed? If he tried and failed to make something amazing,
would his coldheartedness still have been okay? Do the lives and
feelings of criminals have any value?
some of the subtext of Capote. Another is the role of big
city folk as the tellers of the lives of Middle America; how they
interpret and represent us. Are us simple folk just fair game
for them shiny-shoed interlopers and their storytelling ways?
Are we expendable for the sake of their art? The movie presents
its subtext the best fucking way I know how: by keeping it subtext.
totally unlike the way the Hollywood grassfuckers do it. When
they sink their teeth into anything remotely thoughtful, they
want you to know how smart they are. They don't want to just present
the idea, they want to win a fucking award for it. They're so
God damn giddy, and they're also seeking approval like a puppy
who sat when told. Capote doesn't. It's elegant and quiet.
Director Bennett Miller and writer Dan Futterman deserve a shitload
of credit for treating their material and audience with so much
is fucking fantastic. He plays a lisping, flamboyant gay man without
bringing attention to himself. That's something no lisping, flamboyant
gay man can do. He is completely inside the character, and plays
him so well that you can almost feel sorry for Capote. Almost,
but not quite. After all, an asshole before six gin and tonics
is still an asshole after them. Collins is also very good as the
killer Smith. Although he has killed four innocent people, Collins
gets you to feel sorry for him for his circumstances and the way
is damn smart, the kind of smart that doesn't show off. And that's
the best kind to hang around, because the other kind keeps making
you feel stupid. And it makes you eat too many pickled eggs. Four
to my readers: If people ask you how you busted your front teeth,
tell them "by being fucking rad". That'll get you a lot more respect
than saying "by popping wheelies on my ten-speed in front of these
teenage girls who called me a dork." Trust me on this one.
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