Novelist Truman Capote is known for many things. He crafted phenomenal books such as In Cold Blood (1966), Other Voices, Other Rooms (1948,) and his most famous work Breakfast at Tiffany’s (1958.) The opening gay man was also a prominent socialite, attracting wealthy women and friends to his lavish parties where they’d indulge in secrets and sin. The other was his unique voice that was further immortalised with Phillip Seymour Hoffman’s Academy winning performance in biopic Capote.
Yet Capote was a man of multitudes – a southern country upbringing, his role as an adoptive father, and a product of many troubling relationships. Within this trauma, Capote developed a quick wit and a venomous writing start that could strike into the heart of many. But did his icy style conceal pain?
Ebs Burnough delves into this complex figure with his documentary The Capote Tapes. With old footage, interviewed tapes of his old departed friends, and talking heads of those alive who knew him, Burnough pieces together this compelling cinematic portrait.
The film does not skirt over the faults and flaws of Capote, the genesis of which starts with his abandonment by his mother. As he grows up, with childhood friend Harper Lee (who famously wrote To Kill A Mockingbird,) Capote is unashamedly a viper with his work. Most controversially, he befriended the real life killers he wrote about in non-fiction novel In Cold Blood, whilst at the same time, he campaigned for their death sentence in order to profit from an exciting book ending. The high society friends who saw themselves as close to Capote were skewered in an unreleased book Unanswered Prayers, subsequently cutting Capote off from their world.
There is so much more than his open contempt writing and momentary dive into his world is truly enthralling.
The conclusion that The Capote Tapes seems to reach is that woven into his words is the truth of Capote’s disdain. He approached his working class characters with an understanding and warmth. However, those of upper classes, with their lies and deceit and affairs, he wrote with contempt.
While Burnough’s documentary cannot begin to convey all of Capote, it can aid both a novice and an expert.
The Capote Tapes will be available at altitude.film and on all digital platforms across the UK and Ireland from 29 January.