The close-ups of Capote, as essential as they are to Ingmar Bergman or Samuel Fuller, reveal so much more than just the actor’s face: they illuminate an intensely intimate, yet aloof, construction which is the contradiction that lies at the heart of Truman Capote’s struggle to write In Cold Blood.
Capote’s face is framed just above the eyebrows, and just below his mouth, expanding just the width of his glasses and nothing more. This tight-frame holds while Capote stares off-screen, below the camera. The focus isn’t centered on Capote's eyes (which are hardly present on-screen anyways), nor on his glasses, or on anything to do with what he is doing: it is on his nose. The shot is at once private and reserved, not penetrating like Bergman’s shots (where the actor stares back into the audience’s eyes), but expressing a completely different relationship between spectator and actor. It is much like the relationship between Capote and Perry Smith: the writer stares at the murderer, both as friend and as writer, but unable to do both at the same time, for they contradict each other. The ethics of the former step on the toes of the latter; the former invites privacy, and the latter presents the possibility of exploitation. In this way, we stare at Capote, filming his story as he wrote the story of Perry: we try not to judge, but are unable to do otherwise. That the gaze is unreciprocated provides us the necessary distance to think for ourselves, unsentimentally.
This movie gets a major Cineholla from the ‘holla himself.
Cullen Gallagher is a Brooklyn-based writer, musician, and curator whose work has appeared in The Los Angeles Review of Books, The Life Sentence, Moving Image Source, Bright Lights Film Journal, Beat to a Pulp, NoirCon, Crimefactory, Film Comment, The L Magazine, The Brooklyn Rail, Fandor, Not Coming to a Theater Near You, Hammer to Nail, Spinetingler, Between Lavas, Reverse Shot, and Guitar Review. He records instrumental music as Modern Silent Cinema and plays in the hardcore band Night Squad.