Film review: Truman & Tennessee: An Intimate Conversation (Dogwoof)

“A story of a lifelong friendship in their own words”. Truman Capote (1924-1984) and Thomas ‘Tennessee’ Williams (1911-1983), both giants in the American literary world of the mid-twentieth century.

Utilising voiceovers, interview footage (David Frost and Dick Cavett talked to both), and still photographs, we can get a sense of both men as writers, creators, narrators and authors of the characters they created for themselves.

Both born in the South: Capote in New Orleans; Williams in Columbus, Mississippi. Both gay in a time it was surely hard to be so. Both interested in teasing out human nature in their works, creating imaginary lives to compensate for the reality around them and to bring the marginal people in America to the fore.

There have been two major motion pictures about Capote, both released around the same time: Infamous, with Toby Jones; and Capote, with Philip Seymour Hoffman. Prior to that there was the play, Tru, with Robert Morse. All three are fascinating.

I am not aware of any dramatic film about Williams, although his character would clearly lend itself to a fictional depiction – perhaps, though, he needs no impersonation and said all he had to say in his plays. After all, Amanda in The Glass Menagerie is his mother, and both Stanley and Blanche in A Streetcar Named Desire have facets of himself.

Screencap from Lisa Immordino Vreeland's film of Truman & Tennessee: An Intimate Portrait

Photos, images of buildings of importance then, artistic shots pulling back those heady days of the 1950s. Director Lisa Immordino Vreeland brings these two gay icons back to life and their interview snippets are frank, honest and show two men comfortable, if not content, in their choices.

Jim Parsons provides the voice of Capote, Zachary Quinto of Williams. They capture the sense of the real vocal mannerisms without approaching parody, so we find these sections and the real-life clips completely complementary.

Capote and Williams both come across as deeply thoughtful and articulate (interesting that both talk in similar terms about sex, love, and friendship; Capote a little more reserved, Williams shrugging off intrusion with a laugh).

Truman Capotre and Tennessee Williams together c 1970s

Never close friends, Capote and Williams nevertheless had much in common, and it makes absolute sense to craft this film around what could have been a conversation between them.

This is an engrossing and celebratory piece of work which creates a sharp portrait of two complex men, their intellect and their work. Absolutely essential viewing.

Truman & Tennessee: An Intimate Conversation is available in virtual cinemas and on Dogwoof on Demand from 30 April.

Watch the trailer at https://www.youtube.com/watch/v=tTmgnd7mCD0

Image credits: header (Globe Photos, Mediapunch, Shutterstock/Cecil Beaton Archive at Sotherby’s); screencap from Truman & Tennessee (Dogwoof/Getty Images); photo of Truman Capote and Tennessee Williams together (Key West Art and Historical Society)

LouReviews was granted advance complimentary access to review Truman & Tennessee.

Check out my review of Williams’s Southern Belles, comprising Something Unspoken and And Tell Sad Stories of the Death of Queens.

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