The doc's great mystery is Truman's lost book, <em>Answered Prayers</em>, a sort of white whale that the writer himself said he would either kill or be killed by.
The doc's great mystery is Truman's lost book, Answered Prayers, a sort of white whale that the writer himself said he would either kill or be killed by. Courtesy SQFF/The Capote Tapes

What an immortal source of fascination Truman Capote was—a witty, flamboyant writer and raconteur whose company was sought by everyone, who noted every minute detail of those around him, and who spun every observation into spellbinding stories. Moody twink, cackling jokester, wounded artist, The Capote Tapes paints a fascinating portrait of Capote’s many sides through contemporary interviews and scratchy old audio recordings of his gossiping friends.

If you’ve seen either of the oddly simultaneous biopics Capote and Infamous, you’ve already got the broad strokes of his life: New York society; erudite impromptu salons; a tossed-off homosexual wit that was daring then and feels cozy today. This new documentary, from director Ebs Burnough, dives deeper into his relationships, psychology, and the years following the early hits to which his later work never seemed to measure up. What emerges feels (to me at least) like a glimpse of a melancholy man beset by imposter syndrome, gleeful and bold for cameras but doubtful and insecure in private. I’m reminded of Kenneth Williams, the British actor and talk-show fixture, whose work was mischievous and fun and whose life was painful and tragic.

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One of the documentary’s best features is its use of archival footage, photos, and scraps of sound. The expert editing is genuinely hypnotic, transporting the viewer back to mid-century Manhattan with occasional jaunts to Kansas, the deep south, and Hollywood sets. Though the world will never see another force of nature like Truman Capote, The Capote Tapes presents so intimate a portrayal that he feels less like a historical figure and more like a wayward friend.

The doc's great mystery is Truman’s lost book, Answered Prayers, a sort of white whale that the writer himself said he would either kill or be killed by. It was to be a tell-all, revealing the secrets imparted to him by his society friends, and though a few chapters are known to exist, many in Truman’s orbit suspect that he wrote more. After his death, questions about what he may or may not have written left some in a panic that their secrets may be revealed, and others salivating at the possibility of learning forbidden truths about the wealthy elite. The ghost of that book is nearly as vivid as Truman’s.

The suggested viewing time for The Capote Tapes is Friday, October 16 at 9 PM. That said, all of the films this year are available to watch from October 15-25, 2020, once you click on the link you have 72 hours to watch the film.

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