The film Capote has earned some of the strongest reviews of the past year, and lead Philip Seymour Hoffman has received an Oscar nomination for his work. Whether he wins is a question of industry politics and other variables, not least of which is whether the subject of Capote himself proves compelling enough as a subject to rally Oscar voters in what has been a highly charged and polarizing season for Hollywood. This album works toward the end of familiarizing newer audiences with who Capote was and why Hoffman’s achievement is “capturing” him is notable.
80% of Capote: The Album consists of Truman Capote himself. This is a separate production entirely from the soundtrack album, although Michael Danna provides some 16 minutes from his score for the film to break up the spoken-word segments. That may be a good idea, as Capote’s real voice is one of the most unmistakable in the history of the English language — not for its booming sonorities or rigorous articulation, no… more in a league with Peter Lorre and Strom Thurmond. His skills as a writer are backed by his having won almost every major literary prize in both fiction and non-, his facility for the social arts manifest in his well-documented lifestyle, which brought him into some of the more rarefied airs ever sniffed. Back when men wore suits to parties, he threw them.
This album is essentially a reissue of Truman Capote Reads Scenes from In Cold Blood — A true account of a multiple murder and its consequences, recorded in January/February 1966. Capote’s novel was a seminal work of its time, the precursor to efforts like Mailer’s The Executioner’s Song and the later explosion of true-crime texts that have followed like remora from the tragedies of recent years. It’s fine enough, and it may add some texture to the story, but it will otherwise serve little purpose to the casual fan. Now, a CD of Capote reading from Breakfast at Tiffany’s or one of his later works would be much less dull and much more appealing.