Tuesday, April 20th, 2021

Truman & Tennessee: An Intimate Conversation : reviewed by Andrew Hebden


For those of us who might be outrageously, but fairly, accused of being more interested in mentioning that we have read Truman Capote or Tennesse Williams than actually reading them, this is the perfect documentary. Its mixture of biography, gossip, observations, and anecdotes in their famously distinct voices conveys a sense of both their intellects, outlooks, quirks, and flaws.

Truman and Tennessee were giants in their cultural impact. Both for the immediate power of their work but also in the way it was distorted and translated into popular culture. Williams made his literary name with The Glass Menagerie, setting up a repeating theme of the harshness of reality, but was disappointed by every film version of his plays due to censorship. After writing the graphic In Cold Blood about the murders of the Herbert Clutter family Capote had the double-edged thrill of becoming famous for being gay famous, to the point that his presence on late-night shows and being the punch line of jokes about effeminacy outgrew his written output.

Their lives are revealed by audiotapes, TV interviews, and readings by Jim Parsons as Capote and Zachary Quinto as Williams. Initially giving a sense of their artistic outlook and motivations, the circumstances of their friendships, the overlaps in their lives, and then splitting off into their less appealing sides that led inevitably to differences of opinions and acrimony.

In places the documentary feels like a memory of a favorite literature lesson. The sense of the artistic mind at work seeps from the screen, adding color to the themes of both their writing and the underlying motivations in their lives. At others, it’s all about the Tv interviewer prodding towards intimacy about their sex lives, their relationships, and setting the verbal traps that seem caring but inevitably set them up as the stereotype of the creative but tragic lonely homosexual.

Visually the documentary lacks inspiration, over-relying on scenes of waving corn, and sunlight through leaves to provide screen filler while the actors speak. Thankfully it is frequently revitalized by the recorded interviews and the clips from the movie versions of A Streetcar Named Desire, Glass Menagerie, and Cat on A Hot Tin Roof.

Both of them died a sad death within 18 months of each other. Each death tainted by excessive alcohol or drugs. It comes as little surprise as they each recount their troubles from childhood, their debilitating family circumstances, and a certain shared insecure fragility. It is not jolly, but a strong sense of character does emerge with a specific outlook on life and the world. It may even inspire you to read one of those books that you never quite got round to as an undergraduate.

Directed by  Lisa Immordino Vreeland.

Andrew Hebden viewed this documentary at OUTshine Film Festival, and it will be released by Kino Lorber 
in the US on June 21 2021




Queerguru Contributing Editor ANDREW HEBDEN is a MEDIA & CULTURAL STUDIES graduate spending his career between London, Beijing and NYC as an expert in media and social trends. As part of the expanding minimalist FIRE movement, he recently returned to the UK and lives in Soho. He devotes as much time as possible to the movies, theatre, and the gym. His favorite thing is to try something (anything) new every day.

Posted by queerguru  at  22:37

Genres:  documentary

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