I saw the movie Saturday in L.A. at the beautiful Arclight theaters. It’s easily the finest movie I have seen this year (with “MurderBall” a close second), but my fascination by it is probably colored by my chosen profession. In most movies about writing or even intellectual life – the comically bad “Good Will Hunting” or the moronic “A Beautiful Mind,” come to mind – there is not the slightest indication that the writer, director or actors have a clue about the simple dynamics of the writing or thinking process. “Capote” catches it with unnerving, restrained skill. I cannot improve on Daphne Merkin’s pitch-perfect review in Slate so let me merely echo this judgment:

Capote enables us to grasp, more than any movie on the subject I have seen, what it is exactly that a writer does when he or she writes, how observation leads to perception leads to the crafting of sentences. In so doing, it gets far closer to the complicated, elusive heart of this strange callingx97the way it is both an explicitly private but implicitly public act, a means of rendezvousing with the self but also of showcasing the selfx97than any cinematic depiction until now.

Merkin, oddly, does not acknowledge Capote’s homosexuality, which permeates the movie, and sets the gay writer even further apart from the rural, straight world he has to confront and immerse in. Capote navigated straight society the old way: by a “talent to amuse” in high society, even while he was deadly serious about his work. Funny fags have always been acceptable in certain circles. But what helped connect him to his murderous subjects? A shared history of an awful childhood, but also surely an intuitive understanding of what it means to be an outsider. That’s a gift – made all the more compelling by the way in which the movie did not flinch in the face of Capote’s alloyed character and ethics. But the loneliness and sadness of the man remains. Did he ever know love? And if it had been offered, would he have ever been able to say yes?


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