reflecting the real

September was a strange month. There were distractions, taxes (bleurgh), interruptions, and yes, some time-wasting, but I was also very creative – just not so much in the writing department.

I added another monster to my sketch collection on Flickr: Bela Lugosi as Dracula.

With the arrival of October I have turned the corner. I’ve another submission out a-courting. I wonder if its flirting skills have improved? I’ve goals set for this month, and I plan to make them. In the middle of the month I’ve a weekend away at Octocon, which should be good fun.

Irish horror fans should plan a trip to Dublin for the Halloween weekend so they can attend Horrorthon. There’s a good mix of new and old films being shown over the four days. I’ve seen most of the films on offer, so I won’t make the trip; although a screening of The Devil Rides Out, one of my favourite Hammer films, is very tempting.

A big congratulations to Irish director Billy O’Brien for his win at the Fantastic Fest in Austin, Texas over the weekend. Not only did his excellent horror flick, Isolation, place second in the audience awards, but in the Horror Jury Awards it won Best Director, Best Picture, and Best Cinematography. The film is on release in Ireland at the moment, and it’s well worth watching.

I’ve seen a couple of films recently, including the charming Little Miss Sunshine, which is a dysfunctional family drama/comedy that only wobbles on a couple of occasions. I laughed a lot.

I was surprised on my recent viewing of Capote that the film annoyed me at times. I was expecting to enjoy it. The acting – Hoffman’s in particular – is superb. The design and cinematography are excellent. Yet, I thought there was never enough time given to really dwell upon the events. It was like a series of gulped breaths, which left me gasping. In particular, I found the sequences of scenes rather jarring, especially in the beginning. Capote’s relationship with Jack Dunphy was barely visible – I’m not sure why it was on-screen at all if they weren’t going to do anything with it.

Perhaps the problem is that I’ve always admired Capote’s work. I read In Cold Blood when I was 20, and the precision and beauty of his language made a major impact upon me. I think there is a really interesting question at the centre of Capote about the difficulties of the writer/subject relationship when the subject is a real-life event. I don’t think this is developed fully in the film, and Capote is not treated well.

The success of In Cold Blood lies in the clear mirror that Capote uses to reflect the events around the death of the Clutter family. Of course it’s unlikely that everything in the book is 100% correct, but there is a sense of the writer attempting to be scrupulous in his documentation of the murders and the subsequent trial.

I did not see that same attempt at fairness in Capote. The use of Harper Lee as the “conscience” of the film lends a discernable bias. Lee – who is an interesting character in her own right – is a cipher in the film. Any dimensionality comes from Catherine Keener’s marvellous and understated acting. What do we know about Capote, Dunphy, or Lee at the end of the film? More is revealed about Perry Smith than anyone else.

The heart of the film, for me, is when Capote talks about his interest in Perry. “It’s as if Perry and I grew up in the same house. And one day he went out the back door and I went out the front.” Yet as soon as the line is delivered it cuts away to another scene. It’s frustrating to see this fascinating idea dangled but never properly explored.

Thinking about it I realised that Capote should also reflect the writer/subject dilemma. In his novel Capote describes Smith and Hickock as real people, and not as one-dimensional villains. I don’t think Capote is given the same even-handedness in the movie.

I’m looking forward to Infamous, the new film about Capote that will be released this month in the USA. I’ll be interested to see how it tackles Capote as a subject.