“The Capote Tapes” Review

-Allison McCulloch

There are a wealth of films about Truman Capote, including the narrative features: Capote (2005) and Infamous (2006), in addition to the Maysles Brothers’ documentary short “A Visit with Truman Capote” (1966). The Capote Tapes mainly focused on Capote’s final, unfinished work: “Answered Prayers”;  where he dished on high society and lost many of his rich friends as a consequence.

One of the most interesting interviews was from Kate Harrington, adopted by Truman Capote at age thirteen after her father left. Kate recounts how her dad and Capote had an affair and how Capote suggested that she become a model. He not only helped her in this venture, but also had her write about herself in a notebook before her life changed so she could remember who she really was.

The documentary made sure not to overlook Capote’s earlier works, including Other Voices, Other Rooms, which made him the first openly homosexual author (at least in America). Alluding to who inspired the Holly Golightly character in Breakfast at Tiffany’s and discussing how Capote fell for his subject Perry Smith from In Cold Blood, the doc veers back to “Answered Prayers”. At first the documentary covered Capote’s social life and the cast of characters, so we aren’t surprised later when we started to hear about who was slighted and who cut him out. It was the work that apparently “ruined” Capote: he turned to drugs and drink, dying at the relatively young age of 59 in 1984.

Of course, Capote’s childhood was sad (his mother turned his upbringing over to two of his aunts) and he expressed not really ever finding love. However, it’s worth it to tune in for the footage and photos of the Black and White Ball that Capote threw in 1966 at the Plaza Hotel and for Norman Mailer expressing that Capote wrote the best sentences. From blowing the $1 million advance on “Answered Prayers” (or at least not turning in a final manuscript) to jumping onstage with The Rolling Stones at Madison Square Gardens, the documentary is filled with juicy and entertaining stories. It’s definitely worth checking out.

Rating: 8/10

Vegan alert: References to furs and shrimp.

Comes to New York, Portland, and Laemmle in Los Angeles on September 10 (Playhouse 7, Town Center 5, Monica Film Center, Claremont 5)

Follow Allison McCulloch on Twitter.

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