The Capote Tapes
Hollywood has always been fascinated by glimmering portraits of prominent, gay 20th-century figures. Hence, movies are often drawn to Truman Capote – a New York socialite with recognisable stature and voice, whose books – including Breakfast at Tiffany’s and In Cold Blood – became classic 60s films. The mid-2000s saw a pair of biographical flicks on the novelist released. In Capote, Phillip Seymour Hoffman utilised his creepy persona to play the writer and won his only oscar doing it.
Directed by Ebs Burnough, The Capote Tapes – a new documentary biography – takes a straightforward and enlightened look at the eponymous man. It is mostly assembled of archival footage accompanied by talking heads who guide the story. The feature is reverential, bowing to the individual as extraordinary and never working to break down myths about his way with words, influence or impact on sexual politics of his era. Fair enough, Capote remains a literary giant. But by laying the table for revelation, the film provides none.
The Capote Tapes is ostensibly a documentary search for Answered Prayers, the unfinished novel the writer worked on for years. Contemporary novelist Jay McInerney sets the book up one hour into the movie, comparing it to Proust’s engagement with memory and modern anxiety. By the time the audience has been introduced to the myriad ways its publication could have cooked up controversy, it is time to move on to the next section of Capote’s glittering life.
Burnough has only one film credit, and it’s this. How he got access to stars like Colm Tóibín and Candice Bergen is a mystery, as the picture is quite haphazardly put together. Perhaps he made connections during his time working in the Obama administration as the former First Lady’s senior advisor. The Capote Tapes whips through the multi-faceted life of one of the 20th-century’s cultural figureheads, but leaves the viewer yearning for discovery. One gets the impression this was a passion project. As such, it is polite and deferential, unlike Truman Capote.
The Capote Tapes is released digitally on demand on 29th January 2021.
Watch the trailer for The Capote Tapes here: