... our human speech is naught,
Our human testimony false, our fame
And human estimation words and wind.
The Ring and the Book, Robert Browning (1868)
Another movie about Truman Capote -- already? Filmmaker Douglas McGrath will ride the wave of last year's landmark film Capote with this year's Infamous, another "biopic" about the legendary true crime writer, this one emphasizing his curious social life and droll wit.
The film is going to be released on October 13; it premieres today in Venice. The film is based on the late George Plimpton's Truman Capote: In Which Various Friends, Enemies, Acquaintances and Detractors Recall His Turbulent Career (I'll put an Amazon link at the end of this post). Sandra Bullock plays Harper Lee while Toby Jones (photo) tackles the lead. Brave man, that Jones, to risk comparison to the best performance of the year from that "other" actor who starred in the same role! Also appearing are Isabella Rossellini, Sigourney Weaver, and one of my favorite actors, Jeff Daniels (he's from Michigan, and I love his Michigan accent).
But I'm not so sure that Truman Capote really deserves this much attention, frankly. He credited himself with inventing a new genre, a crime story with a semi-fictional, "literary" treament, and In Cold Blood was heralded as a "nonfiction novel" or "new journalism."
That's all-out bull.
There are so many prior examples of, quote, literary true crime that it's hard to know where to begin, except The Ring and the Book, written by legendary English poet Robert Browning is one good example, and the closing lines, quoted above, are apropos today. It's a true crime poem, if you will, written in 1868, and it tells the tale of a sensational murder in Rome in 1698, and enthusiasts generally agree that it is the one poem that made his fame lasting.
Crime historian Albert Borowitz reached even further back to disprove Capote's claim. In his Innocence and Arsenic, Borowitz had this to say:
Truman Capote clearly had no eye to literary history when he claimed to have created in his crime study, In Cold Blood, a new genre, the "nonfiction novel" ... Far from being a modern invention, the nonfiction novel, as a device for crime narrative, dates back at least to the early nineteenth century. One of the first notable examples in France was The Memoirs of Madame Manson, published in London in 1818... the original work of the versatile man of letters Henry de Latouche....
A Wikipedia page has more details about the new Capote movie. You can see a trailer here (and if you do, kindly let me know what you think; I don't have a sound card and my connection is too slow to watch it).
The truth is this to thee and that to me.