Tuesday, February 20, 2007

A Not-So-Famous Second Take On Capote

After a bit of coverage around last year's Oscars, where Capote was a towering figure, no one really seemed to care when Douglas McGrath's unintentional-sister film Infamous was actually released, bar perhaps a bit of tittering when it was discovered that Toby Jones and new Bond Daniel Craig lock lips in one scene. Infamous is a lot more than that moment, although, sadly this lot is not worth a whole lot. I wasn't the biggest championer of Capote, but watching Infamous made me wonder why I wasn't more impressed by Capote's laudable subtlety and rich, downcast atmosphere- for Infamous, by contrast, overstates practically everything, and it's tone is rather more confused.

Where Capote purposefully eschewed focus on Truman Capote's Manhattan lifestyle, Infamous practically revels in it, casting an array of familiar faces as Capote's "Swans" and other friends. The disturbing descent of Capote's obsession with murderer Perry Smith (here played by Craig) does not make the same impact this time around precisely because Douglas McGrath always returns him to his New York home and companions- both worlds exist together here, nothing has been lost, as it was in Capote. An awkward interjection of later interviews with Capote's friends serves only to jar the film even further, and McGrath's direction often can't help being too obvious and pandering.

Nevertheless, there's some good stuff here. Toby Jones isn't nearly as good as Philip Seymour Hoffman was, but he still offers an interesting new riff on the character and is usually precise in his voice and mannerisms. Sandra Bullock is excellent as best friend Nelle Harper Lee- from her poignant readings of McGrath's often studied dialogue in the interview sections to her awkward plodding walk, Bullock captures Lee's uncomfortability with the situations she finds herself in while retaining a true sense of Lee's friendship with Capote. As for the Swans, only a virtually cameoing Isabella Rossellini truly convinces- Hope Davis seems far too modern, while Sigourney Weaver and Juliet Stevenson both demonstrate an unfortunate tendency to overact.

It's ironic, perhaps, that the film's best moment comes right at the start. Gwyneth Paltrow is Kitty Dean (read: Peggy Lee), singer at the nightclub Capote and Babe Paley (Weaver) are frequenting, and, after knocking a few verses of 'What Is This Thing Called Love' out of the park, she suddenly stops. The music stops, and Kitty sadly sings something acapella, making the entire club stop, transfixed. Kitty stops again, and gestures to the band to strike up again- she's back in the swing of the song again. Paltrow's gorgeous voice and point-perfect epitomization of the period almost ends the movie before it's started, and nothing in Infamous ever reaches the glorious highs of that scene.

And to prove my point, here's that moment (or half of it):

1 comment:

Emma said...

Hey. Sorry for the delay in replying, but you know how it is with fecking homework! Anywhoo my favourit tracks from the Pan's OST are The Moribund Tree, The Funeral and the final lullaby. Beautiful listens.