It is incredible how two movies can be
based off the same book, yet both movies take very different approaches at
interpreting it. This all really boils down to perspective. One director’s
vision differed from the other’s, which in turn produced two different movies
about the same topic: the writing of In
Cold Blood by Truman Capote.
two movies, Infamous and Capote, both had some pretty famous casts.
Infamous, directed by Douglas
Mcgrath, starred such big names as Toby Jones–known for his roles in the
Captain America, Hunger Games, and Harry Potter series–as Truman Capote, Daniel
Craig–known for his role as James Bond in some of the more recent James Bond
installments–as Perry Smith, and Sandra Bullock–known for her role as Ryan
Stone in Gravity–as Harper Lee. Capote,
directed by Bennett Miller, had many notable stars as well. Philip Seymour
Hoffman–known for his role in the Hunger Games series–played Truman Capote, and
Clifton Collins Jr. played Perry Smith.
was very interesting to see how these two entirely different films were produced
roughly around the same story. What some people might not know is that both
movies were actually based on Truman Capote biographies. Capote
was based on a biography by Gerald Clarke, and Infamous was based on one
by George Plimpton. Despite those being two different books, the overall
story remains very much the same, mostly because it was based on true events. It
started with Truman Capote being fascinated by an article about a family that
was murdered in Holcomb, Kansas, so he decided to go out there to write an
article about it. After a long, excruciating investigation, he decides that
instead of an article, he’ll write the very first “non-fiction novel”. To write
said novel, Capote got access to the two murderers in prison. He becomes close
with them, and is especially drawn to Perry, whom he finds resembles himself in
some ways. Even thought he became so close with the two, Capote knew that
the book’s ending would only work if they were executed for their crime, and
that tears him apart over the course of writing the book. This series of events
was the underlying plot for each of the films, but each director had their own
way of going about it.
was a stark contrast between the two movies that makes the differing visions of
the directors very apparent. Capote
just carries more of an air of realism. It comes closer to portraying the
events that actually happened during
the writing of In Cold Blood, whereas
Infamous tends to dramatize the
story, exploring Capote’s homosexuality and romanticizing his relationship with
Perry Smith. For example, “the
first half of Infamous attempts to
draw humor from Capote’s flamboyant persona” (Peters). When compared to Capote, “Infamous is lighter and
flashier. Toby Jones is a more flamboyant, less subtle Capote who is
portrayed as a huge gossip among the high society women of New York”
(Peters). Phillip Seymour Hoffman’s rendition of Capote is more subdued, focused
more on his work than on anything else. He is shown as manipulative, doing
whatever it takes to complete his book, at one point saying “Sometimes
when I think of how good my book is going to be, I can’t breathe” (Peters). That is where the main
difference between the two films lies.
Aside from the
performances, another way the two films differed was in their visual appearnce.
Each film did a very good job at having an appearance that matched its tone. Capote, being more serious, had less
saturated colors and more advanced camera techniques and angles designed to
portray a lot of drama. Techniques such as rack focus were used many times to
get the audience to focus on one particular thing, whether it be a character, a
symbolic element, or something else. Infamous used more saturated colors to
make it seem busier, to mimic Capote’s persona in the movie. It also used some
wide shots to show how social Capote was, as a wide shot can encompass many
people. Even though Capote was a
better film, both films’ cinematography matched the overall tone of the film.
always seems to be the go-to Capote biopic, being nominated for five Oscars
and having Philip Seymour Hoffman being named best actor for his performance. Infamous, on the other hand, was just
never as well received, with the movie itself receiving no nominations and the
actors only being nominated for awards overseas.
It is not obvious at first, but
there is a reason that Infamous
doesn’t center around the writing of In
Cold Blood. It is to appeal to a wider audience. Not everyone is interested
in hardcore documentaries, so appealing to a wider audience would mean that,
logically, the film should make more money. Unfortunately, that was not the
case. One could say that it was to differ the two films so Infamous wouldn’t
look like it was copying Capote, but that is simply not the case, because Capote and Infamous were both ready at about the same time, but Capote came out slightly before Infamous. McGrath didn’t want to
oversaturate people with Capote films, so he intentionally held off on
releasing Infamous, so as to “give
audiences a breather” (Peters). This was actually a smart idea because now,
McGrath could analyze where Capote
did well and where it did not, and only release it in the places where it did
well to waste as little money as possible. It was to no avail, however, because
Capote still did much better than Infamous, with Capote bringing in 42.2 million dollars in profit, and Infamous actually losing around 10.4 million dollars (Wikipedia).
In summary, “Capote
is more serious and reserved, much like the performance of Philip Seymour
Hoffman” (Miller). When you compare the two films back-to-back, Iit almost
makes Toby Jones’s performance seem irritating. It
really is amazing how two movies can be based off the same book, yet both
movies come out so differently. One director’s vision differed from the
other’s, which in turn produced two different movies about the same topic: the
writing of In Cold Blood by Truman
Capote. One director wanted something more dramatic, the other wanted something
more entertaining. It all came down to perspective.
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