30 September 2006 | jdesando
Tender and Terrible
"There will be time to murder and create." T.S. Eliot's Prufrock
Truman Capote described murderer Perry Smith as between the "tender and the terrible." Such may be said about writer/director Douglas McGrath's superior Infamous, a tale of Truman Capote's (Toby Jones) love affair with his innovative novelization, In Cold Blood, and its protagonist,Perry Smith (Daniel Graig). The tender is Capote's love of his female friends, especially Harper Lee (Sandra Bullock) and Smith (DanielCraig), and the terrible slaughter of the Kansas farm family in 1959 by Smith and friend Dick Hickock (Lee Pace).
Inevitable as accusing Toby Jones of only imitating Capote is the comparison with Philip Seymour Hoffman's Oscar performance of the titular author in Capote (1955). Jones's turn is more complex than Hoffman's, alternating between Capote's imaginative connection with the crime and his growing respect, even love, for Smith. In fact, the well-known love between the men is avoided in Capote but highlighted in Infamous.
I was hooked in the first sequence, when Gwyneth Paltrow as Peggy Lee sings "What is this thing called love?" and breaks down in apparent awareness of her own losses. The song, perfect for the themes of the film, and the film's score carry a melancholy with them that McGrath captures in Tru's constantly frustrated search for truth and love and Lee's inability to pen another novel after her Pulitzer-Prize-winning To Kill a Mockingbird. For that matter, Capote never completes a significant piece after that himself.
Last year's Capote seemed centered on the conflict in Truman over whether or not he was exploiting Smith to get a story and then never fully engaging a campaign to free them. This year's Infamous (a poor title regardless of it double artistic appropriateness) is more interested in Truman's struggle to write a new kind of fiction (docudrama) and his true affection for Smith. Infamous fleshes out the story and the fabulous artist whose "Breakfast at Tiffany's" and "In Cold Blood" are cultural staples of 20th century life.