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2020 Milwaukee Film Festival: “THE CAPOTE TAPES”

Posted on Oct 20, 2020 by | 0 comments

The Capote Tapes

THE CAPOTE TAPES occupies a Venn diagram intersection of the various programs of the 2020 Milwaukee Film Festival, particularly it’s officially part of the Arts & Artists and the Documentary Favorites programs but it might as well be part of the GenreQueer program. In other words, it’s tailor made for the Milwaukee Film Festival’s interests.

THE CAPOTE TAPES offers the hook of bringing a slew of recently recovered audio recordings from George Plimpton’s THE PARIS REVIEW offering insights from many of the people that knew Truman Capote. And the insights provided, accompanied by lots of footage of Capote himself. Director Ebs Burnough has a plethora of ideas to follow and tries to touch on most of them to create a complete portrait.

Capote is clearly one of the leading lights of 20th century American literature. Couple that with being an extremely witty conversationalist, a favorite of New York high society, a self made man from humble origins, and an openly gay man in a time when that was not accepted, and there’s no shortage of hooks for the story. All of those hooks get some attention in the documentary which plays as something of an overview of the life of Capote. And, since Capote led an interesting, eventful life it’s a film full of interesting, entertaining moments.

Unfortunately, the hook that the film focuses most on is Capote’s relationship with high society and his lost manuscript ANSWERED PRAYERS. There is certainly items of interest here, and juicy snippets of interviews, but there’s probably the least insight to be gained here than of the rest of Capote’s story. Yes, there’s kind of a love/hate relationship going on with Capote where the question of whether he was truly accepted as an equal or as more of an amusing pet is never fully resolved.

THE CAPOTE TAPES is always watchable and there’s a compelling personality at its center. But, alas, it’s so concerned with getting everything in, that it doesn’t really maximize the compelling sides of any part of Capote’s life. Nor do the interviews manage to dig really deep. It’s a good effort, but doesn’t have the brilliance of its subject.

THE CAPOTE TAPES is streaming throughout the 2020 Milwaukee Film Festival which runs from October 15 to 29, 2020. Tickets to individual films and passes to the festival as a whole can be purchased via Milwaukee Film.

Robert Reineke
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