Thursday, November 23, 2006

Cape Haute and Rue Ander

Don't they sound like exotic locations: Cape Haute and Rue Ander? The one could be a French-speaking part of Africa and the other a tiny side street in Paris, maybe. But they're not, are they? I'm just being very silly, aren't I? They are, rather, pretty rubbish clues to my two movie reviews this Thursday morn.

First up, Cape Haute, or Capote as it may be known to some of you.

To be fair, my knowledge of Truman Capote pretty much begins and ends with what I learned during this movie. Of course, I already knew that he wrote Breakfast at Tiffany's and In Cold Blood and that both of those books had been turned into successful movies. But beyond that, zilch, zero, nada, niente. But I'd been looking forward to the Oscar-winning tour de force performance by Philip Seymour Hoffman as the eponymous scribe.

The plot is simple: It's 1959, and author Capote goes on a magazine-column mission to report on the shock random murder of an entire family in a small town in the middle of nowhere. But when the perpetrators are tracked down and arrested, Capote's involvement grows, as does the scope of his article, which turns into a book: "the first non-fiction novel".

But he can't finish his book until the legal process is over. The ending of the story dictates the ending of his story, you see. And a string of appeals drags the process out and tries Capote's patience. It is here that we start to see Capote as nothing more than a self-serving arrogant prick, and yet his charm and intelligence are such that you know he would be good fun to hang out with, as long as the booze supply was limited.

I thought this was a truly great film. Naturally Hoffman was a standout. But then he is probably the finest actor working in the world today. Catherine Keener, as Harper Lee, author of To Kill a Mockingbird, was great, too. I think she is a fantastic actor, and time after time I get so pissed off at how underused she is in everything. People should go to the gallows for the talent they waste when employing her for a job, seriously. And Chris Cooper, too: great job.

In fact, this has landed a spot in my list of Films You Should Watch If You Want To Know How To Act: it's right up there with Citizen Kane and Raging Bull. Kudos to Hoffman.

The film doesn't fully hold up to the lead performance, but then how could it? But I do believe that in years to come we will ask ourselves, "How the hell did Brokeback Mountain beat this to Best Movie?"

The Blog About Nowt score for this flick is a shotgun-pumping 82 out of 100.

And so to Rue Ander, or rather Shooting Dogs, which is set in Rwanda and is about the genocide there in 1994.

It's obvious that I'm going to compare this with Hotel Rwanda, which I watched a wee while back. Much of the background info is obviously the same, but the setting is new: this time we're in a technical college rather than a hotel, and the heroes of the hour are a Catholic priest and his young protegé.

Immediately after watching it, I felt that it wasn't as strong as that other film. For example, I hated the young male lead. Hated, hated, hated. Maybe it's a class thing, but he just came across as an annoying wimpy ponce, which, granted, the script kind of implied he was, when his character says something like: "I grew up with everything, so I came here to give something back. Sometimes I give myself a pat on the shoulder and say, 'You're starring in your own Oxfam ad'." Indeed, he realizes what a terrible cliché he is. Still, it didn't stop me from finding him annoying as fuck.

And John Hurt as the priest. I don't know... I just don't get priests. He just came across as a deluded, crazy old fool.

Of course, all of this can't take away from the horrific situation that people like this were living through. But at the end of the day, most of them walked away back to their safe European homes and left the locals to be machete'd to death. Nice. This period in such recent history should be a huge blot on the UN's conscience. But I fear it is merely indicative of what a shitty, toothless waste of space it really is.

On the plus side, this film at least didn't have the happy Hollywood ending that Hotel Rwanda had (I'm talking within the setting of the film, rather than of the war itself, obviously), and I can't help thinking how much better this film might have been if made by the team behind that other movie and with different actors. (Although even this film had to have a tacked-on "five years later" happy coda.)

Bottom line: Good horrible story, unappealing actors, annoying epilogue. 62 out of 100

To see how these two films rank alongside all the others I've reviewed in these pages, check out this post.

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Blogger Red said...

Well, as you know, I beg to differ on Shooting Dogs. I thought it was an amazing film, truly agghiacciante in a way that Hotel Rwanda only hinted at. For me the Joe character was absolutely believable and appealing (and not just because he was easy on the eye), but because it could be you or me in that situation. Sure, you want to help, but you also want to save your own life. I thought the dilemma he was facing was portrayed beautifully and understatedly.

And the bit just before the credits gave me the goosebumps. Awesome, awesome, awesome film. The only duff note was the woman journalist, whose performance was stilted, cold and mechanical.

23 November, 2006 10:01  
Anonymous cappy said...

thank you. now on my to see list!

23 November, 2006 10:22  
Blogger Milla said...

I won't need to buy Sight&Sound any longer; I can just come here and read the film reviews and comments from you two guys. I haven't seen Caopte yet, but I like Capote's style of writing and I think Hoffman is a wonderful actor (have you seen Happiness? He is great in it; he is really good in Boogie Nights too). Plus, if * has given the film an 82...I mean...

23 November, 2006 13:28  
Blogger Tanya said...

Capote is something I would like to see. I have not yet put it on my list, but it's one I want to view.

Thanks for the reviews.

23 November, 2006 14:14  
Blogger Will said...

Chris Cooper: well underrated.

23 November, 2006 14:26  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I found Hotel Rwanda utterly depressing, which is not surprising is it? I dont want to see shooting dogs yet.

As for capote, thanks for that review. I've never heard of him and when I saw glimpses of the film I just thought it was an art movie about an old queen. So I will add this to my list.

23 November, 2006 15:00  
Blogger Martha Elaine Belden said...

SO glad you liked capote so much. i didn't know what i was going to do if you came up with a bad review. but i should have known you'd love it... it's incredible!

and now i'm not sure whether i'll look into shooting dogs... doesn't sound worthwhile based on your review

always love reading your movie reviews, *

23 November, 2006 16:12  
Blogger Life, or Something Like It said...

I love your film reviews ( I have read most of them). I had zero interest in Capote, but now I'm thinking of checking it out.

23 November, 2006 18:32  
Blogger ems said...

We read In Cold Blood for book group. The others went to see the film after having discussed the book (this was during my pneumonia phase at the beginning of the year)- very positive about both. I'd certainly recommend you read it.

23 November, 2006 19:39  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

im still readin u n red n cat n all my other 1s ty

23 November, 2006 21:09  
Blogger Sheamus the... said...

hmmm...I have been wanting to see Capote. I also want to see the movie "In Cold Blood". My film professor said it was good for whatever that is worth.

24 November, 2006 05:51  
Blogger FOUR DINNERS said...

Seen Capote. It is a great movie and the performances are supurb.

24 November, 2006 15:17  

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