On Blu-ray disc
“Capote”
Directed by Bennett Miller, written by Dan Futterman, 116 minutes, rated R.

On one level — the level in which he came to exist — this attention Truman Capote is now receiving in the Blu-ray release of “Capote” is just as he would have wanted it. He’s still being talked about, still being read, his movies still being discussed, his presence still causing a stir. People are saying his name again. The buzz is back. There’s the whisper of awards. You can just imagine his delight.
On another level — the private level in which even he himself couldn’t face in the end — he likely would have hated it because he couldn’t have controlled it and, really, because the attention has become so damning.
But that’s Capote for you — a hive of contradictions and complications. Before booze got the best of him, he had enough talent and drive to put himself on top, where he belonged, but also enough self-hatred, selfishness, pain, ruthlessness and heartbreak to generate the sort of mystery that tends to create legend.
When he became popular, everything about Capote was a shock — his personality, the punchy little lilt in which he spoke, his haughty air, his homosexuality, his absolute sense of daring. Looking at him in photographs or on television talk shows, you either are bemused, transfixed or horrified — sometimes all at once. He was a gifted, weird little genius, complex beyond reason, smart enough to use his quirks to his benefit, and then careless and human enough to fall prey to them all.
Both sides of Capote are examined in Bennett Miller’s smashing film, “Capote,” which Dan Futterman adapted from the book “Capote” by Gerald Clarke. It’s a fantastic movie, with an Academy Award-winning performance by Philip Seymour Hoffman as Capote.
The film is tough to shake. Throughout, Miller weaves through the debris of what Capote wrought when inspiration struck thanks to a New York Times article he read about a clutch of murdered Clutters in the Kansas hamlet of Holcomb.
It was 1959, the deaths were brutal, the details intriguing. Fresh from the success of “Breakfast at Tiffany’s” and looking for a new triumph in a new work, Capote found both in this felled mid-Western family, whose heads were blown off in cold blood by Perry Smith (Clifton Collins Jr.) and Richard Hickcock (Mark Pellegrino).
With the financial blessing of his New Yorker editor William Shawn (Bob Balaban), Capote decided to leave New York City and his lover, Jack Dunphy (Bruce Greenwood), to get the story with the help of his childhood friend, Harper Lee (Catherine Keener). It would take him almost six years to do so, during which time Lee would enjoy some success of her own, specifically the release of her Pulitzer Prize-winning novel, “To Kill a Mockingbird,” about which Capote would come to say in a revealing moment, “I really don’t see what all the fuss is about.”
He saw it. He also knew that he wouldn’t have achieved his greatest success without her. In the early years of writing the piece, which would become his best-selling non-fiction novel “In Cold Blood,” Capote used Lee as his research assistant and his “personal body guard.” She was his segue into Holcomb, the everyday person without the flashy Bergdorf scarf who could smooth over the relationships Capote would need if he was going to get this story right.
The movie generates much of its richness from their relationship, but it gets its steel rod by focusing on Capote’s unexpected relationship with Perry, a man he came to like in spite of all that Perry did.
Capote related to Perry — they had similar upbringings, each having been abandoned by their mother.
“The difference between us is that Perry walked out the back door,” Capote says. “I walked out the front.” But what the unsophisticated Perry couldn’t grasp was Capote’s true intent, and that was to finish his book so he could soar back into the arms of the nation, where he would be lauded, loved, adored and appreciated by those whom he felt mattered. In Perry, Tru saw a gold mine.
Still, how to finish a book when the murderer you’ve taken up with isn’t exactly forthcoming about the murders in question? For Capote, patience was key, but so were deceit, manipulation, lies. Since he would stop at nothing to get to the truth, he essentially nailed Perry to the wall.
As such, what rails through “Capote” is a cold undercurrent not without its flashes of warmth; the movie is dark and unabashedly violent, yet subtle and fragile. The writing and the performances are just right — alive with mischief, spot-on with insight, particularly when it comes to capturing the savagery of an artist such as Capote, who could be every bit as brutal as men like Perry and Hickcock when it came to realizing the completion of his vision.
Miller understands this. He knows that writing sometimes isn’t the white-gloved profession some perceive it to be. The reason his movie is so good, is that he sees that writing — or any creative endeavor, for that matter — can be just as cutthroat as committing murder. There’s passion involved in each, and where’s there’s passion, there can be blood. For Miller, Perry and Capote weren’t so different. Separate the fine clothing from the prison uniform, peal away the personalities to their cores, and what you have are two tragic, damaged individuals who ruined themselves.
Grade: A

WeekinRewind.com is the site for Bangor Daily News film critic Christopher Smith’s blog, DVD giveaways and archive of movie reviews. Smith’s film reviews appear Firdays in Lifestyle, and his video movie previews appear Wednesdays in the Lifestyle section of bangordailynews.com. He may be reached at Christopher@weekinrewind.com.