Food, drink, film and other random thoughts from The Lone Star State.

Wednesday, May 31, 2006

In Cold Blood

IMHO, PS Hoffman did an amazing portrayal of Truman Capote in Capote. The film weaves the storyline of this book, In Cold Blood, arguably his best work, throughout. Even if you know the plot, the logisitics of the arduous fact-gathering, the ending and you've formulated an opinion on the matter, still, I encourage you to read this. Why? Its difficult to grasp the full genius of this author without reading him. At least that is the conclusion I reached after finishing this book, my first Capote read.

Capote wielded his pen like an extension of his mind, a beautiful, poetic mind it was. He could find beauty in the oddest of things, like Western Kansas. I've been to Western Kansas, many times, usually en route from Denver to some other place. I could only describe it as hundreds of miles of never-changing, mind-numbing beigeness. But Capote's dreamlike, carefully delivered description almost makes me want to see it again, through his eyes. Almost.

You have to admire the dedication Capote had to follow this sensational story to the end, a story that spanned many years. To get to know the family and friends of the slain family, to infiltrate the minds of two murderers, to know them better than they knew themselves, to unearth the psychology, to sew it all together in a cohesive and consumable manner. To watch these men hang from the neck until dead.

Capote had more than just a writing style, he had a rhythm. At the end of each section, usually written in the voice of a character, were one or two lines that were uncharacteristically short and nonchalantly delivered. These several lines punctuated the tone of the story like a sledgehammer on china.

I finished the book in a day, its that riveting. Then, as I usually do, I rented the movie. Curiosity, really, I just wanted to see if the images Capote painted in my mind were compatible with the film-maker's. Usually I am disappointed in the film, however, not this time.

In Cold Blood, the movie, was great. I loved the 1960's time capsule. Filmed in black and white, great black-turtleneck, finger-snapping, heavily-cymablled, hep cat jazz music, everyone in suits and ties. And hats, noone wears hats anymore. Don't forget the cars, those big lumbering, road-hogging metal people movers. Big shinny grills and wicked back fins, looking like serial killers on four wheels.

Robert Blake, of the I-swear-I-didn't-have-my-wife-murdered Blake's, stars as Perry Smith. I think we could call this retro-irony. I have to say, he was very convincing as the tortured killer with the dubious upbringing. Really, the best role of his career.

In other Capote-related news, Infamous, another film dissecting the Capote-Smith relationship, hits the mainstream in October.


Blogger Ryan Charisma said...

How funny that you've read "In Cold Blood". I haven't read it yet, but perhaps next? You should also check out "Breakfast at Tiffany's" it's wonderful.

11:55 AM

Blogger Jim said...

Wait. I've read something that you haven't? :) I've seen Breakfast At Tiffany but have not read it, will check!

1:29 PM

Anonymous Thom said...

Just followed a link to your blog today and found this post. Odd as it seems to say, I love In Cold Blood. I read it for the first time when I was twelve or so, sneaking it off my parents' bookshelf. It was the first book I read where I realized the beauty and the power of language, that it could be used to paint pictures every bit as vivid as a real painting would be. And the original film is haunting, too, isn't it? Have you ever seen this web site? It's a fascinating update of the story.

6:34 PM

Blogger purpletwinkie said...

I watched 'Capote' this past weekend and told myself I need to read In Cold Blood! I love when older works are brought to our attention (for the first time or as an encore) and become 'new' again.

5:13 AM

Blogger Jim said...

Hi Thom,

So true, in most cases the written word creates a much more vivid image than a painting or film. I suppose it makes us draw on our real-life experiences and immagination.

Thanks for the link, I will check it out :)

7:57 AM

Blogger Jim said...

I like that too, Scott. Now a whole new generation can get to know a fantastic author. One of our campus theatres is rumbling about a midnight showing of "In Cold Blood".

8:08 AM

Blogger NeiLDC said...

I havent read yet any of Truman Capote, but it was a good acting performance of PS hoffman.. it was good actor...check some German films.on my blog!

1:50 PM

Blogger Sangroncito said...

Another film to add my my growing list of "I have to see this when I get back"

3:05 PM

Blogger Daniel, the Guy in the Desert said...

He pretty much quit writing after In Cold Blood. I remember him on Jack Paar, pre Johnny Carson. He described how, to relieve tension he would in the early morning drive down those country roads in Kansas at 115 MPH. He described how at that speed the road appears like a wall in front of you. Little silly looking and sounding man with not an ounce of fear in his body.

12:32 AM

Blogger Jim said...

Neil, I will check, thanks!

12:45 AM

Blogger Jim said...

I'd rather you go visit Ecuador first, before you settle into film mode, Sangroncito :)

12:50 AM

Blogger Jim said...

Daniel, that's interesting about his relaxing activities while in Kansas, that is exactly what I did while traveling through Kansas :)

6:58 AM


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