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September 24, 2020

Film review: ‘The Capote Tapes’ kicks off aGLIFF festival

And yes, there’s more to say about Truman

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Any reasonable, well-read person might ask: Is there really anything more to be said about Truman Capote, the flamboyant queen of literature who shocked America with his openly homosexual first novel, “Other Voices, Other Rooms” in 1948?

After all, he was a regular fixture on TV talk shows in the 70s and early 80s. With his high-pitched voice, he minced and preened and dished dirt about all sorts of things with Dick Cavett and Johnny Carson. And he became a rock star of “New Journalism” with his 1966 nonfiction novel, “In Cold Blood,” while working for The New Yorker with his Alabama childhood pal, Harper Lee.

In between “Other Voice” and “Blood,” there was 1958’s “Breakfast at Tiffany’s,” which was later turned into a highly popular movie starring Audrey Hepburn, although Hepburn’s Holly Golightly was way toned down for Hollywood.

And if all that weren’t enough, Capote was a fixture at Studio 54 and gained everlasting social fame when he hosted the lavish Black and White Ball at the Plaza Hotel in New York on Nov. 28, 1966.

All of this, however, came crashing down with Capote’s increasing use of alcohol and drugs. And life really turned south when Capote published the first few chapters of “Answered Prayers,” which was supposed to be a novel of high society but went unfinished and caused an uproar because of its thinly disguised protagonists.



One of those protagonists, Babe Paley (wife of the CBS-TV mogul) was highly offended. She had been one of the longtime so-called swans of Capote — a group of wealthy women who shared their secrets with the writer. Other society figures dumped Capote, too, in allegiance with Babe.

Despite all of this being well-known, first-time documentary director Ebs Burnough delivers an interesting tale, interspersing the film with new interviews with such writers as Norman Mailer, Dotson Rader and Colm Toibin.

Mailer remembers accompanying Capote to a roughneck bar and seeing how the diminutive character dealt with the glares and curiosity of the patrons. And Mailer comes to realize that Capote was much braver than many thought.

Rader, for his part, does quite good impressions of Capote and relays lots of witticisms. Rader also makes a good case that Capote believed he was never loved.

The movie is based, in part, on audiotape recordings by George Plimpton, who in 1997 compiled an oral history of Capote by interviewing his friends and enemies.

“The Capote Tapes” kicks off the aGLIFF Film festival on Aug. 6. The festival runs through Aug.16, and it’s virtual this year because of the pandemic. To view movies and see the festival’s offerings, visit agliff.org. Access to the festival can be obtained by visiting agliff.org/badges.


Charles Ealy
Charles Ealy
Charles Ealy is a former movies editor for The Dallas Morning News and Austin American-Statesman.