Film Here's a question. Who directed Capote? Before you dash off and look at the Internet Movie Database or pick up a copy of last month's Empire, I should explain that I'm asking because Philip Seymour Hoffman's performance as the titular character is so strong and pervading that any thoughts of directorial control drift out of the window. Hoffman is mesmerizing and as usual demonstrates his ability to present a three dimensional persona on celluloid which the audience can get the measure of from the opening shot. The problem is that it unbalances the film to the extent that it's difficult to keep an eye on the emotional thread. It's a sympathetic performance of someone who could be considered quite unsympathetic and that's a paradox that threatens to cause the narrative to implode in on itself.

It's a film about the artist's responsibility to his subjects and were that begins or ends. There's no doubt that Capote takes advantage of this terrible situation for his own ends. This man wants to be thought of as a great author and is never happier than when he's being venerated even if he has to pay people to do it. It's a journalistic responsibility - can someone become so involved in the story that they are an essential part of it. Keeping in mind my only exposure to the novel, the 1967 film by Richard Brooks, it's difficult now to wonder why Capote didn't write himself in there for pure accuracy. In one scene he says that he was creating a new genre, the non-fiction novel, and certainly its important to keep your distance otherwise you risk the story being about you and how you feel about what is happening but doesn't extricating yourself from the action completely risk devaluing your work. Clearly critics haven't thought so and a title card during this film says that its considered to be one of the greatest novels ever written but in this age of memoirs I'm confused and the film offers few answers.

The director of Capote it Bennett Miller, whose only apparent previous film was a documentary The Cruise. There has been a definite attempt to offer a 'vision'. The story is presented very simply and there are only a few obviously stylistic moments. Parties are generally presented in a mess of handhelds and master shots to emphasise the chaos and Capote's often chaotic personality as the centre of attention. In the country and prison cells, framing becomes still and simple and filled with emotional close ups. In both cases stories are being told - in the former it's Truman shouting his mouth off about his celebrity lifestyle or over simplifying his work - in the latter words have a more realistic angle even if all we are hearing from Capote are half-truths or persuasive arguments.

But in the end is the film any good? To be honest I found it to be quite an empty experience. Although there are warm areas, such as another excellent supporting performance from Catherine Keener, reacquainted with her Adaptation co-star Chris Cooper and the ever reliable Bob Balaban. The afformentioned photography by Adam Kimmel and the masses of great dialogue by Dan Futterman (adapting from a book by Gerald Clarke), I truly think the problem is that the film can't decide what kind of work it wants to be. For much of the time it wants to be a moral question and psychological study; it wants to be about words and the reader or listener's imaginations and then there are scenes which presents graphically some things which would have worked far more potently in the imagination of the audience - they feel dropped in, a re-shoot, a last minute attempt to attract our attention and this in the end, for me, fundamentally weakens the whole piece.

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