Capote (2005)
Sony Pictures Home Entertainment
Cast: Phillip Seymour Hoffman, Catherine Keener, Clifton Collins Jr., Bruce Greenwood, Bob Balaban, Chris Cooper
Extras: Audio Commentaries, Documentary, Featurette

I have always admired the acting of Phillip Seymour Hoffman, needless to say I was overjoyed at his winning of the "Best Performance by an Actor in a Leading Role" at this years Academy Awards for his portrayal of the writer Truman Capote.

The fascinating thing about film that I am reminded of when watching stories like "Capote" is just how powerful the medium can be at exposing you to interesting individuals from the past. By presenting a highlighted version of their life story or significant accomplishments, to just providing a captivating "slice of life" of the subject being showcased. The real Truman Capote was slightly ahead of my generation, so for me, "Capote" and the story behind his book "In Cold Blood" was definitely compelling to experience for the first time.

The one distinctive difference with "Capote" is the sheer fact that it is not to be considered a biographic picture or "bio-pic". The sole reason that actor Phillip Seymour Hoffman chose to do this film was for that very reason. Instead, "Capote" focuses on a time in the writers life surrounding the events that brought him to write the book "In Cold Blood."

November 15, 1959, the small town of Holcomb, Kansas becomes the unfortunate setting for the brutal murders that devastate an entire family and shock the nation. Writing for the "New Yorker" magazine at the time, Truman Capote (Phillip Seymour Hoffman) travels to the town to gather more information surrounding the tragic events for an article to be published in the magazine. Easily becoming absorbed in the story, even to the point of obsession, Truman begins to interview townsfolk and local investigators as he unintentionally becomes a temporary resident of the town. While not quite sure how to accept Truman at first, the residents soon develop an admiration for the New York writer. With the eventual capture of the two involved in the murders, Truman takes it upon himself to seek out personal interviews with the men. Spending hours and days at the local jail, then making numerous trips to the state prison after both men are given the death penalty. Attempting to grasp all of the details surrounding the events of that dark day, Truman strikes up a close friendship with one of the convicted killers, Perry Smith (Clifton Collins Jr.). Soon appreciating that he has compiled more information that could easily overwhelm a magazine article, Truman decides to turn the story into a book, later to be titled "In Cold Blood". A novel that would eventually go on to become one of the most celebrated books of the century, from one of America's truly original authors of that time.

As the years pass, Truman starts to realize that this experience is involving far more time than he had ever anticipated. At times wishing that their deaths would come sooner rather than later so he could begin the eventual process of completing his book, putting an end to this chapter of his life. These feelings ultimately take their emotional toll on Truman, leaving many to consider "In Cold Blood" one of Truman's greatest successes, yet greatest failures as this sparked the beginning of his unfortunate downfall.

Sony Pictures Home Entertainment releases "Capote" to DVD under the Sony Pictures Classics brand. Presented in an an anamorphic widescreen transfer with an original aspect ratio of 2.35:1. The muted color pallet enjoys just the right amount of saturation to showcase the golden browns, beige tones, and shades of blue-gray that are ever so present in the Fall season of the prairie landscape setting. Flesh tones are equally reproduced to appear natural throughout. Deep rich black levels highlight the wealth of detail exhibited during the presentation of "Capote". This might seem like nit-picking, but I was a little surprised at the presence of dust specs prevalent in the transfer. Although not overly distracting, one would expect a new film to DVD, especially a film of this caliber, to have a more pristine presentation. Aside from that, "Capote" illustrates a beautifully rendered transfer that is void of any noticeable problems associated with poor video compression.

The available Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack pairs exquisitely with the visual presentation. Displaying naturally reproduced vocals and a good mix that provides a well balanced sound stage, this sonic presentation is sure to please.

There are two full-length audio commentaries accompanying this DVD of "Capote. The first commentary features actor Phillip Seymour Hoffman and director Bennett Miller, subdued at times, this enlightening personal perspective of the finer points behind the story and production is well worth a listen, should you take the time to do so. The second audio commentary again features director Bennett Miller, only this time he is joined by cinematographer Adam Kimmel.

"Truman Capote: Answered Prayers" is a short featurette that gives some good insight into the real Truman Capote. Mixing contributions from biographer Gerald Clarke with various cast and crew, even including some archival interview footage of Truman capote himself.

A well presented behind-the-scenes documentary simply titled "Making Capote" is split into two separate sections. The first portion is titled "Concept to Script", which offers viewers an informative look at the early beginnings of what was involved in bringing the story of "Capote" to the screen. The second part of the presentation, titled "Defining a Style", focuses on various areas of production including location scouting, wardrobe and set design, to name only a few. This fascinating examination into everything concerning the final execution of "Capote" is explained in great detail. Offering discussions regarding director Bennett Millers choice to utilize a very stark and muted color palette for "Capote" to control the overall mood of the story being presented. Eliminating the use of any reds or blues, while still maintaining a highly complex and textured visual presentation, works to give "Capote" it's original style and terrific appearance.

Since "Capote" had a limited operating budget, but the film's setting required the use of various locations featuring country and urban settings, the tall order was fulfilled by shooting the film in Winnipeg, Manitoba. The prairie city offered the look of Holcomb, Kansas in the late 1950's to early 1960's, while architecturally being able to double as New York and Brooklyn within the city's urban settings. Choosing to film "Capote" in Canada allowed filmmakers to stretch their budget that much further, providing a little more financial freedom, thanks in part to a strong US Dollar. Interesting and in-depth documentary that is worth the time invested.

Arriving on DVD so soon after the Academy Awards, especially now that Phillip Seymour Hoffman has been given the accolades he so deserved for his performance of Truman Capote, I would not be at all surprised to see a deluxe special edition of this film on DVD in the near future. Given Sony's track record of re-releasing films to DVD time and time again, we can almost expect one is being prepared as I write this review.

Well written, beautifully shot film with a wonderful cast that, in addition to Phillip Seymour Hoffman's award winning achievement, provides some truly memorable and powerful performances from Catherine Keener, Clifton Collins Jr. and Chris Cooper. "Capote" comes with my highest recommendations.