Author Topic: Stanley Kubrick's Influence on the 2005 film "Capote"  (Read 3512 times)

Offline TOoP/Bruce

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Stanley Kubrick's Influence on the 2005 film "Capote"
« on: March 22, 2012, 03:34:25 pm »
Director Bennett Miller is by his own admission a fan of director Stanley Kubrick.

http://www.movingimagesource.us/files/dialogues/2/97798_programs_trans cript_pdf_265.pdf

"The Shining" and "Capote" are thematically both films about self-destructive alcoholic writers who are both consumed by the process of writing. Additionally, both films share related themes of truth and honesty, and withholding truth.  They are both films about delusion and a kind of madness.  Although they remain very different films, there are several points of comparison.

The branches on the trees in "Capote" serve a very similar function to the maze in The Shining - the dead trees and the maze are both representations of their stories' protagonists psychological states.

The scene with Capote meeting the boy in the supermarket who points a toy pistol is based on a Diane Arbus photograph (the photo "Boy with a Grenade" is identified by Bennett in the audio commentary track on the "Capote" DVD), just as the twin girls in "The Shining" is known to be based on the Arbus series of photographs of "The Wade Sisters".

In The Shining, Jack Torrence has a sexual interlude with the apparition of the woman in Room 237. In the film "Capote", Truman (In the phonebooth and talking to his lover Jack) eyes up a man for an implied sexual interlude as he is waiting outside the bar under the numbers 237.  (Room 237 is a particularly interesting reference because the Hitchcock movie "Torn Curtain" begins in Room 237.  Perhaps Kubrick was giving a wink and a nod to Hitchcock here.)  There is also a deleted scene in "The Shining" where what appears to be a man wearing a bear costume is discovered in a sexual encounter with another man in the same room.

Both "Capote" and "The Shining" employ a muted color structure for much of both films that is designed to give a greater visceral impact to the blood reds when they appear in the film.

Bennett Miller also manages to work in his own take on the Kubrick "dead-eyed stare" toward the end with Capote lying inert in bed, half his face covered by his blanket and the phone framing the other half of his face.  It is similar to the wide-eyed stare of Jack Torrence, dead in the maze at the end of "The Shining."  The "Kubrick gaze" of madness recurs in several of his films.
 
"Capote" is a not in any way a remake of "The Shining," but these moments might be considered homages to Kubrick's influence on Bennett Miller. Bennett Miller makes extensive use of long slow camera shots in a methodical observational style that is reminiscent of Kubrick. He also shares Kubrick's delight in composing extreme wide angle compositions with little movement. There are several instances in both films of using long shots with very little movement.  What little movement there is (whether it is something moving in the frame, or the camera slowly pushing in or pulling away) becomes visually very important due to the otherwise static nature of the shot.

« Last Edit: April 03, 2012, 06:23:20 am by TOoP/Bruce »
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Offline Mandy21

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Re: Stanley Kubrick's Influence on the 2005 film "Capote"
« Reply #1 on: April 02, 2012, 09:13:56 pm »
Bruce, I just had a double-feature afternoon of "The Shining" and "Capote", including watching with interest all of the special features and "Making Of" featurettes.  I had never thought of putting these two movies together in comparison until I read your thread/post a few weeks ago.  In addition to the items you noted, I also saw similarities in the typewriters, with ashtray to the left.  Also, in terms of the desk setup, in some scenes, there is a lamp on the left in both films, and in other scenes, the lamp is missing altogether from the respective writing desks.  Considering the genius of these directors, I don't think that was a props mistake.  In addition, we are constantly reminded of the coldness and remote desolation of the Overlook Hotel, and the farmhouse and prisons in Kansas.  Both protagonists enjoyed their strong cocktails, rather than wine or beer or liquers.  And I'm sure Kansas is filled with more than its share of buried Indians.  Those are just off the top of my head.  Can you think of others, Bruce?

Also, could you expand on this thought of yours?  I'm not grasping the connection between Capote's mind and a dead tree?

The branches on the trees in "Capote" serve a very similar function to the maze in The Shining - the dead trees and the maze are both representations of their stories' protagonists psychological states.
 

Two interesting notes from "The Shining" special features:  1)  Apparently, Shelley Duvall was quite a handful to work with, and was "angry" at Nicholson's numerous fans visiting the set.  2) In terms of the large differences between Stephen King's novel and Kubrick's adaptation, one of the things he wanted to make clear was that his story would be about a man who walked into that hotel with a death wish in hand, and the ghosts of the Overlook had little effect on either accelerating or quelling his plan.  Hmm...
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Offline TOoP/Bruce

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Re: Stanley Kubrick's Influence on the 2005 film "Capote"
« Reply #2 on: April 03, 2012, 06:19:45 am »
The association of the penitentiary shots with the Overbrook is not one that I had considered, but its a great observation, and I think it is spot on.  

The season in both films is almost a character in and of itself.  In "The Shining," the season is winter.  In "Capote," the season is late fall.  In both films, the season plays a large part in setting the tone of the films.

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Offline TOoP/Bruce

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Re: Stanley Kubrick's Influence on the 2005 film "Capote"
« Reply #3 on: April 03, 2012, 06:59:04 am »
 In "The Shining," the maze represents Jack Torrence's convoluted state of mind, thematically doubled once again by the Overbrook hotel, the interiors of which are also presented as a kind of maze.  It becomes a metaphor for having lost one's way, a kind of madness.

On the commentary track of "Capote," Bennett Miller actually refers to the shots of the branches as representing Capote's "state of mind."  (The shot starts in the branches, and moves down to Capote).  The branches of the trees represent a kind of barrenness and a loss of the life force, as well as visually representing a kind of tangled foliage "maze of madness" for Capote, that links the one film to the other.

It was this Bennett Miller quote on the commentary track of Capote, along with his acknowledgement of the use of a Diane Arbus photo as inspiration for the scene of Capote in the supermarket (as well as the "237" reference)  that set me to thinking about other connections between "Capote" and "The Shining."  In reading further about Bennett Miller, his admiration for Kubrick came up several times.
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Offline TOoP/Bruce

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Re: Stanley Kubrick's Influence on the 2005 film "Capote"
« Reply #4 on: April 03, 2012, 02:59:04 pm »
Both "The Shining" and "Capote" use party scenes to elicit character development from the main character.  The party scenes in "Capote" are meant to be real world encounters, but would seem like another world to the people who live in Kansas, whereas the party scenes in "The Shining" are meant to supernatural and otherworldly.  Both provide social contrast for the main characters and the real worlds they find themselves living in.
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Offline Mandy21

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Re: Stanley Kubrick's Influence on the 2005 film "Capote"
« Reply #5 on: April 03, 2012, 03:58:20 pm »
Did you notice that Capote, being the attention whore that he was, made sure he was the center of attention, not just at the small, backwoods-type parties held in Holcomb, Kansas, but at the biggest of New York soirees as well?  Even at Harper Lee's huge party for the film premiere of "To Kill A Mockingbird", Capote, sitting against the wall at the bar, alone, downing drink after drink, with his head almost falling into his glass, STILL managed to stick out like a sore thumb amongst the throngs of jubilant party guests with his "woe is me" demeanor.
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Offline TOoP/Bruce

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Re: Stanley Kubrick's Influence on the 2005 film "Capote"
« Reply #6 on: April 03, 2012, 04:33:32 pm »
Did you notice that Capote, being the attention whore that he was, made sure he was the center of attention, not just at the small, backwoods-type parties held in Holcomb, Kansas, but at the biggest of New York soirees as well?  Even at Harper Lee's huge party for the film premiere of "To Kill A Mockingbird", Capote, sitting against the wall at the bar, alone, downing drink after drink, with his head almost falling into his glass, STILL managed to stick out like a sore thumb amongst the throngs of jubilant party guests with his "woe is me" demeanor.

By all accounts, that was Capote.   :)

(I forget if the movie makes mention of the fact that in "To Kill a Mockingbird," Harper Lee based the character Charles Baker "Dill" Harris on her childhood friend Truman Capote?)


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Re: Stanley Kubrick's Influence on the 2005 film "Capote"
« Reply #7 on: April 03, 2012, 09:15:00 pm »
I actually visited Room 237 of the Stanley Hotel where Stephen King stayed in Estes Park, Colorado. I was on a tour getting ready for the 2007 Brokeback BBQ. I was told that King did not actually write the novel while staying at the hotel, but that's where he got the inspiration for it.
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Offline Mandy21

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Re: Stanley Kubrick's Influence on the 2005 film "Capote"
« Reply #8 on: April 03, 2012, 09:45:59 pm »
Bruce, having so recently seen it, I can tell you that Harper does not mention that to Truman in the film.

Lee, the great majority (if not all?) of the interior scenes of "The Shining" actually took place in a studio in England, according to the special features, and to IMDB:

Filming locations for The Shining (1980)
 
Colorado, USA

Elstree Studios, Borehamwood, Hertfordshire, England, UK

Glacier National Park, Montana, USA

Going-to-the-Sun Road, Glacier National Park, Montana, USA (opening scenes: aerial shots)

Saint Mary Lake, Glacier National Park, Montana, USA (opening scenes: aerial shots)

Timberline Lodge, Mount Hood, Oregon, USA (Overlook Hotel exterior)

Yosemite National Park, California, USA


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Offline TOoP/Bruce

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Re: Stanley Kubrick's Influence on the 2005 film "Capote"
« Reply #9 on: April 04, 2012, 07:15:58 am »
"Capote" has an underlying theme of shaping reality to make a better story, blurring reality and fiction.

"The Shining" has an unsettling, underlying theme of television silently shaping and distorting our lives, also blurring reality and fiction.  (Consider these lines: "Women. Can't live with them, can't live without them," [Danny Torrance:] "Don't worry, Mom. I know all about cannibalism. I saw it on TV," [Jack Torrance:] "See, it's OK. He saw it on the television," "Honey, I'm home," "Heeere's Johnny!" -- all relating directly to television, and subverting its banal cliches.)

Both scripts are crafted to be highly ambiguous regarding peoples motives.

Neither film is meant to provide easy answers.
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Offline Lynne

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Re: Stanley Kubrick's Influence on the 2005 film "Capote"
« Reply #10 on: April 04, 2012, 01:09:05 pm »
I have somehow managed to never see nor read The Shining.  I will rectify this.

I did ski on Mount Hood and stay at Timberline July 4, 1995.  It was gorgeous there.
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Offline TOoP/Bruce

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Re: Stanley Kubrick's Influence on the 2005 film "Capote"
« Reply #11 on: April 04, 2012, 01:42:03 pm »
I have somehow managed to never see nor read The Shining.  I will rectify this.

I did ski on Mount Hood and stay at Timberline July 4, 1995.  It was gorgeous there.

There are significant differences between "The Shining" (the book), and "The Shining" (the movie).  Kubrick introduced elements into the story, and substantially altered the ending.  The creative differences between Kubrick and King were pretty acrimonious, and King was very unhappy with Kubrick's alterations.  

Years later, King went so far as to shoot his own version of "The Shining" for TV.  (It's pretty much been forgotten.)
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Offline Lynne

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Re: Stanley Kubrick's Influence on the 2005 film "Capote"
« Reply #12 on: April 04, 2012, 03:41:13 pm »
There are significant differences between "The Shining" (the book), and "The Shining" (the movie).  Kubrick introduced elements into the story, and substantially altered the ending.  The creative differences between Kubrick and King were pretty acrimonious, and King was very unhappy with Kubrick's alterations.  

Years later, King went so far as to shoot his own version of "The Shining" for TV.  (It's pretty much been forgotten.)

Interesting - thank you, Bruce.  I like Kubrick, so his film it is.  I read most of King's early novels...I thought he got tedious around The Dark Tower and I never got back to him.
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Offline TOoP/Bruce

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Re: Stanley Kubrick's Influence on the 2005 film "Capote"
« Reply #13 on: April 05, 2012, 09:12:02 am »
Interesting - thank you, Bruce.  I like Kubrick, so his film it is.  I read most of King's early novels...I thought he got tedious around The Dark Tower and I never got back to him.

I had never read a Stephen King novel until after I had seen the movie "The Shining."  I read another four of them trying to recapture some of the sensation I had experienced seeing "The Shining."  It hadn't yet dawned on me that I had responded more to Kubrick's contributions than the story itself.  The movie "The Shining" has an interesting dimension that apparently was wasted on King -- it is a horror film that is extremely manipulative in very unconventional ways.  King felt that Kubrick didn't understand how to exploit the novels shock and suspense, but in fact Kubrick intentionally and deftly subverts most conventions of the genre, leaving the viewer feeling slightly unhinged -- particularly when the camera settles into a completely balanced and entirely symmetrical shot.  Kubrick imbues a disquieting sense of suspense into scenes that King probably only meant to exploit for shock.

Kubrick borrows and expands some elements from "Psycho" - note the repeating mirrors theme, as well as the use of bathrooms.  He also borrows elements from "Rosemary's Baby" -- note how things are framed in doorways in such a way that you almost want to tip to one side or the other to see what is really going on in the room ahead.
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