Top positive review
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The Talented Mr. Ripley with a French accent
on November 13, 2001
I saw this before I read the Patricia Highsmith mystery novel from which it was adapted, and before seeing the recent and excellent The Talented Mr. Ripley (1999) directed by Anthony Minghella and starring Matt Damon, Jude Law and Gwyneth Paltrow. Here the accomplished French director René Clément has Alain Delon, Maurice Ronet and Marie Laforêt as his stars in this very fine interpretation. Seeing it again only confirms my high opinion.
The fact that "Purple Noon" plays well after forty years is a testament to Clément's clean, objective direction and his faithful adherence to the Hitchcock formula. Pretty poor boy goes after everything pretty rich boy has, including his yacht and his girl friend in this tightly focused thriller. We see once again--cf., Polanski's Knife in the Water (1962) and the early Nicole Kidman vehicle Dead Calm (1989)--that some very bad things can happen when you get two men and one woman on a yacht in the middle of a whole lot of water. Note too the Mediterranean rock island atmosphere reminiscent of Antonioni's L'Avventura (1960). It will probably get me into trouble with Italian film aficionados to add that it's a little surprising that both films are from the same year, inasmuch as Plein Soleil is still a treat to watch, while L'Avventura seems terribly dated. Perhaps the beautiful use of color and the charming locales and interiors so well done by Clément make the difference.
Delon is a particularly "pretty" and uncomplicated Tom Ripley, while Ronet is a somewhat nasty and macho Philippe ("Dickie" in the novel) Greenleaf, and Laforêt is a very sensual and sexy Marge. All do a good job and are well directed by Clément whose attention to detail in all aspects of the production is admirable. The fish market scene and the scene where Ripley projects Philippe's signature on the wall in order to practice it, and especially the cold, windy feel of being aboard the yacht work very well and keep us engaged.
Comparing the Minghella film, I would say it owes something to Plein Soleil (e.g., the jazz motif, the real love between Marge and Philippe) but is essentially a different spin. Perhaps the most important difference is that there is no sexual ambiguity to Ripley's character in this film as there was in both the novel and Minghella's production. Clément plays it straight throughout also eschewing any sort of psychological study of Ripley's murderous nature. He even deviates from Highsmith's daring (at the time) resolution for something more traditional. Nonetheless the very clever ending is beautifully ironic and will give you a surprising jolt.
--Dennis Littrell, author of "Cut to the Chaise Lounge or I Can't Believe I Swallowed the Remote!"