Friday, November 11, 2005

NYRB nov 17 Mendelsohn corrects Denby

On reviews of the film Capote, and, if you read far enough, on Scorsese's No Direction Home.

Daniel Mendelsohn in his review of Capote took issue with Denby's criticism of the film's portrayal of Truman Capote's alcoholism.

Denby, "the filmmakers' suggestion that Capote never recovered from the death of Perry Smith or from the success of In Cold Blood, strikes me as doubly sentimental. Capote was ultimately done in by alcohol."

Mendelsohn, after a detailed narrative of the events, "it does not seem at all sentimental to see the cause of his decline in the experiences that were forced on him by the writing of In Cold Blood. 'Something happened,' and that something wasn't merely the killings themselves, but the terrible five-year wait and what it meant: that the success of the book that he always knew would be his greatest acheivement depended, in the end, on the deaths of two men, one of whom eerily resembled himself. Alcoholism was just the proximate cause [ . . . ] (22)

Alcoholism killed Capote the way eating dinner with your family raises your SAT scores. Sort of.

I loved Mendelsohn's review. I haven't seen the film yet (I always take forever to see anything, I have an anticipation addiction) but I certainly will now. I especially liked the part where he says that he kept thinking the film was black and white when it wasn't (23). Though this might be because the film In Cold Blood is black and white. I should re-watch that. And the paradox of writerly silence (23). Why not? Writing can be silent. Reading can be silent. One thing that's not often silent, not these days, is film.

In other media news, we inherited a huge flat screen TV. I find the picture digital-y, and I think its the low quality of our DVD player. But the sound is amazing. I am no longer watching film, I'm listening to it. For example, I listened to parts of No Direction Home. I get really worked up and angry about biogrpahy, celebrity and the narrating of history (but you know this) and this was no exception. I resented Dylan's retreat from activist to artist. Or maybe I just resented the film telling the story that way. Such a boring old dominant narrative. I'm going to re-watch Don't Look Back too.

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