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Capote / In Cold Blood(1967-2005)
'In Cold Blood' - An account of a real life crime in which an entire family was brutally murdered by wandering gunmen, adapted from Truman Capote's landmark true-crime novel.
'Capote' - In November, 1959, Truman Capote, the author of "Breakfast at Tiffany's" and a favorite figure in what is soon to be known as the Jet Set, reads an article on a back page of the New York Times. It tells of the murders of four members of a well-known farm family--the Clutters--in Holcomb, Kansas. Similar stories appear in newspapers almost every day, but something about this one catches Capote's eye. It presents an opportunity, he believes, to test hislong-held theory that, in the hands of the right writer, non-fiction can be as compelling as fiction. What impact have the murders had on that tiny town on the wind-swept plains? With that as his subject--for his purpose, it does notmatter if the murderers are never caught--he convinces The New Yorker magazine to give him an assignment and he sets out for Kansas. Accompanying him is a friend from his Alabama childhood: Harper Lee, who within a few months will win a Pulitzer Prize and achieve fame of her own as the author of "To Kill a Mockingbird."
For more about Capote / In Cold Blood and the Capote / In Cold Blood Blu-ray release, see Capote / In Cold Blood Blu-ray Review published by Kenneth Brown on February 9, 2009 where this Blu-ray release scored 3.5 out of 5.
Capote / In Cold Blood Blu-ray Review
A masterful modern classic is released alongside its uneven predecessor...
Reviewed by Kenneth Brown, February 9, 2009
First published in 1965 as a four-part serial in The New Yorker, eccentric novelist Truman Capote's In Cold Blood started a non-fiction boom. Compiled from 8,000 pages of notes, on-site interviews with local residents, and unprecedented access to the killers themselves, Capote's book detailed the horrific 1959 quadruple murder of a Kansas family, as well as the subsequent trial and execution of Richard Hickock and Perry Smith for the crime. The author's work earned him overnight acclaim and mass-market success -- Random House published the novel four months later, critics were enamored, copies flew off the shelves, and Columbia Pictures pounced on the opportunity to bring In Cold Blood to the big screen. Forty years later, it all came full circle with director Bennett Miller's Capote, a slowburn biopic that explored the murderers' motivations and guilt, the egocentric novelist's obsession with the slaying and its perpetrators, and the complex psychosexual relationship that developed as a result.
The 1967 cinematic adaptation of In Cold Blood fell to writer/director Richard Brooks (The Professionals, Cat on a Hot Tin Roof), a filmmaker whose steady hand and authoritative voice was a good match for the dark subject matter at hand. For the roles of Perry Smith and Dick Hickock he chose Robert Blake and Scott Wilson, accomplished actors who brought gravitas and chilling matter-of-factness to their portrayal of the murderous pair. The film documents their plans to invade the Clutter family homestead, the chaos that ensues when their plot unravels, and the investigation into the killings. Leading the charge is Alvin Dewey (John Forsythe), a detective whose eye for evidence soon brings Smith and Hickock to his department's attention. Nominated for four Academy Awards (including Best Director, Cinematography, and Adapted Screenplay), In Cold Blood holds up fairly well today and, were in not for its stagey supporting performances and dated production values, would probably have the same impact as it did forty years ago.
It may be an aversion to the common mannerisms and line delivery of the era, but aside from Blake, Wilson, and Forsythe, I was continually yanked out of the film any time the local townsfolk or sideline police officers opened their mouths. In Cold Blood's most effective moments (most notable of which is a disquieting scene that finds Hickock and Smith calmly pursuing aisles at a hardware store) are still quite unnerving -- the maligned chemistry between the two men is undeniable and their odd relationship makes their eventual crimes even more disturbing. The story runs out of steam as it approaches its conclusion, but Blake and Wilson keep things simmering as well as they can in light of Brooks' particularly bloated resolution. As a character study, the film works; the ease with which the thieves become killers is explored at length and their reactions to Dewey's accusations are thoroughly believable. However, as a cohesive true-crime drama, it falls flat; the world Brooks weaves struck me as superficial and disingenuous. Perhaps if his entire cast was as strong as his leads, the film would be as stirring as it was when audiences first saw it in the late '60s. As it stands, I just couldn't sink in and overlook its flaws.
Capote takes a completely different approach, following Truman Capote (Philip Seymour Hoffman) as he travels to Kansas with his friend and fellow author Harper Lee (Katherine Keener) to research the Clutter killings. While there, he finds himself at odds with lead detective Dewey (Chris Cooper), gets the opportunity to interview Hickock (Mark Pellegrino) and Smith (tragically underrated character actor Clifton Collins Jr), and slowly becomes obsessed with the criminals and their plight. But instead of focusing on the murderers march on death row or their attempts to escape justice, director Bennett Miller and screenwriter Dan Futterman delve into Truman's private life, examining his obsession with Smith and his growing empathy for a killer.
Easily one of my favorite films of 2005, Capote is an absolute masterwork that combines effortless performances, gorgeous cinematography, and a sharp script that crafts every character into an authentic human being. Hoffman's portrayal of Capote goes beyond overwrought impersonation and showcases the award-winner's relentless command of his craft. His delivery of Truman's high-pitched voice never slips into parody, his rampant selfishness never feels artificial, and his effeminate gestures never suggest the author was anything more than a peculiar character in his own life. Grounding the strangest scenes, Keener offers a distinct counterpoint to Hoffman's every emotional outburst and subtle tick. She establishes Lee as an agent of reason in the whirlwind of Capote's mind, questioning his motives and pushing him to examine himself regardless of his personal discomfort with the process. Along with Collins' timid vulnerability in Truman's presence and Cooper's palpable disgust for everything the writer represents, Capote is a performance-driven tour de force that simply should not be missed.
Capote / In Cold Blood Blu-ray, Video Quality
Brace yourselves... it's time for another classic, action-packed round of good news, bad news. First, the good. Both Capote and In Cold Blood feature 1080p/AVC-encoded transfers that completely outclass their murky DVD counterparts. Sadly, in a cruel twist of fate, Sony has granted In Cold Blood a proper and thorough remaster while giving Capote nothing more than a dodgy spit-shine. The result is a hit-or-miss double feature in which a 1967 catalog transfer bests its 2005 companion.
Cinematographer Adam Kimmel floods each frame of Capote with recessed shadows that drain his palette of color and gives Miller's scenes considerable dimensionality. Sony's transfer captures his every swath of light, replicating the cool contrast and moody primaries of the film's theatrical presentation. There are moments when warm hues rush to the forefront of the image, but skintones rarely flush, reds never falter, and whites never grow too hot. Delineation is a regular issue -- black levels aren't always fully resolved, noise clutters a few nighttime sequences, and detail is sometimes absorbed into the backgrounds -- but I didn't get the sense that it was the result of a faulty technical presentation. Unfortunately, other issues pointed to a bigger problem. Detail is sharp and refined one moment, and soft and indistinct the next; gaudy edge enhancement clings onto objects in the foregrounds and backgrounds (the most obvious instances reminded me of Warner's The Assassination of Jesse James transfer) in almost every scene; and faint artifacting and crush regularly appear in the darkest corners of the image. I would guess Sony simply took the previously-released DVD transfer, gave it a brief once over, and tossed it onto a Blu-ray disc to reap the inherent benefits on a high-def presentation. While it excels in some regards, I really wish the studio had taken their time with Capote and given it the transfer it so rightly deserves.
In Cold Blood, on the other hand, looks fantastic. Sure, it shows its age each time a speck, scratch, or bit of minor damage graces the screen, but the image is quite clean and, at-times, impeccable. Softness creeps into a few shots as well, but unlike Capote, such losses in clarity appear to be the product of the original print rather than the technical transfer. Detail is surprisingly exact -- textures are earthy, on-screen text is quite legible, and fine environmental elements like stones are underbrush are nicely defined. Blacks are deep and inky, midrange grays add excellent definition to skin and fabric, and whites are comfortable. I also didn't catch sight of any significant artifacting, noise, banding, or any disruptive grain inconsistencies. Some crush robs high-contrast scenes of minor detail, but it doesn't undermine the otherwise rejuvenated picture. I wouldn't go so far as to place the transfer at the top of the high-def heap (not with Casablanca and Good Night, Good Luck sitting just a few store shelves away), but it's definitely worth a fair amount of praise.
Capote / In Cold Blood Blu-ray, Audio Quality
Both Capote and In Cold Blood feature newly-mixed Dolby TrueHD 5.1 surround tracks that represent their original sound design well. However, as is so often the case with quiet modern dramas and dated catalog films, the overall audio package can be a bit underwhelming.
To its credit, Capote delivers where it counts, fusing crisp dialogue, precise prioritization, atmospheric ambience, and convincing acoustics into a cohesive surround experience. If anything, its hushed tones and vacant spaces don't benefit from the polish or power that would leave audiophiles nodding their heads in approval. The LFE channel does little more than lend weight to car engines and prison doors, support the film's musical score, and make abrupt effects all the more unsettling (a gruesome third-act gallows drop comes to mind). Likewise, the rear speakers are rarely tasked with anything more aggressive than buzzing insects and swaying trees. Admittedly, the results are effective and immersive, producing an eerily naturalistic soundfield that never disconnects the viewer from the film itself. However, it's tough to get too excited about such subdued sonics.
In Cold Blood sounds relatively impressive for a forty-year old production, but its TrueHD track loses too many battles to the film's noticeably degraded source. Issues like popping and air hiss are distracting to say the least, clarity occasionally suffers from warbling and poor vocal prioritization, and a non-existent rear soundstage makes Sony's decision to issue a 5.1 remix rather arbitrary. Don't misunderstand, it's a solid effort with a reasonably clean soundfield and efficient presentation (especially considering the film's age and condition), but anyone looking for the latest-n-greatest catalog audio track will shrug their shoulders over what they hear. All in all, I'm sure most fans will be quick to forgive and forget its shortcomings... I suppose I just expected more shock and awe from a $40 release.
Capote / In Cold Blood Blu-ray, Special Features and Extras
While In Cold Blood doesn't get any supplemental love from Sony, Capote ports over all of the special features from the previously-released DVD edition. There isn't a massive collection of material to dig through, but what's here is noteworthy. A pair of audio commentaries delve into every aspect of the production, a candid and informative documentary focuses on the cast and crew's commitment to the project, and a decent featurette takes a brief look at the real Truman Capote.
All things considered, this 2-disc double feature offers a fairly fascinating supplemental package that could have only been improved had equal attention been given to both films.
Capote / In Cold Blood Blu-ray, Overall Score and Recommendation
If Capote and In Cold Blood were available separately, I would be far more enthusiastic about their release. The former is a powerful, unexpected breath of character-driven air that wields emotion and delusion with the flick of its screenwriter's pen. The latter is a dated affair with stagey supporting performances and production values; a film that should have been included as a bonus on the Capote disc rather than a full-fledged member of a double feature. Unfortunately, Sony's staggering price tag makes the disparity between the two films even more apparent. It doesn't help that the Blu-ray edition's video and audio presentations -- while more than acceptable in their own rights -- are still rife with a slew of minor technical issues that reduce the value of the release.
Ultimately, Capote's most outspoken cheerleaders will be thrilled to have both discs in their collection, but the double feature's high price point and the obscurity of its second offering will scare away most newcomers and casual fans. Here's hoping Sony will decide to release both films individually in the future.
Capote / In Cold Blood Blu-ray, News and Updates
• Tommy, In Cold Blood Announced on Blu-ray - June 28, 2010
Sony Pictures Home Entertainment has announced two catalog titles for release on Blu-ray on September 7: The Who's rock opera Tommy; and the 1967 crime movie In Cold Blood, based on Truman Capote's world-famous non-fiction novel and previously available only as ...
• Capote Double Feature Gets Detailed - December 22, 2008
Sony Pictures Home Entertainment has announced the technical specs and special features for the upcoming double-feature Blu-ray release of 'In Cold Blood / Capote', which is due to hit store shelves on February 17th. This two disc set will feature 2.35:1 1080p ...
• In Cold Blood/Capote Blu-ray Double Feature - December 15, 2008
Sony Pictures Home Entertainment has announced that they will bring the Blu-ray double feature 'In Cold Blood/Capote' to Blu-ray on February 17th. 'In Cold Blood' is the Oscar-nominated film based on Truman Capote's novel, and 'Capote' is the Oscar-award winning ...
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