The Capote Tapes: Film Review

The Capote Tapes

Considering he’s one of America’s most iconic writers, I knew the name Truman Capote and his most famous novels – Breakfast at Tiffany’s and In Cold Blood – but shamefully little else, so The Capote Tapes was a fascinating and enlightening experience.

With unprecedented access to journalist George Plimpton’s taped interviews for his 1997 biography, Truman Capote: In Which Various Friends, Enemies, Acquaintances and Detractors Recall His Turbulent Career, director Ebs Burnough crafts a documentary which tells the story of Capote’s childhood and his career achievements, shows how he was unapologetically gay and camp before it was accepted by society, how he became the darling of the New York literary scene and popular member of the cafe society crowd, and how he used these connections to write a shocking tell-all book that ultimately became his downfall (and was never published in full).

In addition to audio clips from his old society friends like Babe Paley and Lee Radziwill and fellow novelist Norman Mailer, the documentary features loads of archival footage of Capote as well as new interviews with novelists Dotson Rader and Colm Toibin and former Vogue editor-at-large Andre Leon Talley. They might be the famous contributors but the most interesting interviewee by far was Kate Harrington, the daughter of one of Capote’s lovers, John O’Shea. Harrington, who sees the author as an adoptive father figure, speaks in detail for the first time about life with Capote and offers up fascinating gems. She appears throughout the documentary to add personal insight to the events of his life and give us an idea of what his reaction was in private at the time.

I knew very little about Capote – I didn’t even know he spoke like that! – so I found The Capote Tapes illuminating, informative, and compelling. Even if you were more clued up – after all, this isn’t the first documentary about him or the first time he’s been played onscreen (most notably by Philip Seymour Hoffman) – it’s still worth a watch as it offers a fresh and deeply interesting insight into his life thanks to the tapes and access to Harrington.

Available at altitude.film and on all digital platforms across the UK and Ireland from 29 January

Rating: 4 out of 5.

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