[box cover]

Infamous

Every couple of years of late, two films will come out based around a similar idea. There's been competing Mars movies (Mission to Mars vs. Red Planet), Volcano movies (Dante's Peak vs. the imaginatively titled Volcano), and most recently films about Truman Capote. The rule seems to be that whichever film comes out first wins, in terms of box-office and quality. Alas, in this story of dueling Capotes (which, at the very least, sounds like a mixed drink), the writing was on the wall for 2006's Infamous when 2005's Capote started getting Oscar heat for Philip Seymour Hoffman. And since audiences tend to reject the following film as if they've already seen it, Infamous's theatrical run was a non-starter. But where Capote as a film was simply the capturing of a great performance, Infamous is a more insightful portrait of Capote. The plotlines of both movies are similar: Capote (Toby Jones) finds out about the story of the Clutter killings and goes to Holcomb, Kan., with Harper Lee (Sandra Bullock) in tow. At first the townspeople are wary of his intrusion at their time of mourning, but when they find out that he knows famous people from Hollywood and is a wonderful storyteller, he becomes all the rage and gets close with lead policeman Alvin "Foxy" Dewey (Jeff Daniels). The killers are caught, and Capote becomes fixated on Perry Smith (Daniel Craig, doing a fairly convincing American accent). At first Smith rebuffs Capote's wishes for interviews, and so Capote returns, rejected, back to New York, where he spends time with the likes of Slim Keith (Hope Davis) and Babe Paley (Sigourney Weaver), but he's distracted by Smith and sends him and accomplice Dick Hickock (Lee Pace) pornography. Smith sends him a letter suggesting that, since he will likely be executed, he would rather surround himself with beautiful things rather than smut, and such begins their strange courtship. It also defines the difference between the two films: Where Capote suggests that the writer sold his soul (and possibly Smith's and Hickock's) to create his greatest (and last) book, Infamous intimates that Truman fell so madly in love with Perry Smith that after Smith's death and the publication of In Cold Blood there was nothing left for him. And because Blood does create such empathy for Smith, writer-director Douglas McGrath's take is likely the more realistic portrait of the events (though he admits in his DVD commentary he, like Capote, takes liberties). It also allows for Truman Capote to be charming and funny in a way that Hoffman's performance couldn't (since the thesis of that film is Capote's duplicity), and much of this movie has an engagingly light comic tone. It's also the better film of the two. Also featuring Isabella Rossellini, Juliet Stevenson, and Peter Bogdanovich as Truman's New York friends, and Gwyneth Paltrow as a jazz singer. Warner Brothers presents Infamous in a solid anamorphic transfer (1.78:1) with Dolby Digital 5.1 audio. Extras include a commentary by McGrath and a theatrical trailer. Keep-case.
—DSH



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