Purple Noon (1960)

Purple Noon (1960)

“All is vanity; nothing exists.”

Synopsis:
When conman Tom Ripley (Alain Delon) is hired to bring his acquaintance (Maurice Ronet) back home to his father in America, Ripley finds himself caught up in a sticky triangle with Ronet’s dissatisfied girlfriend (Marie Laforet), and soon moves into even more dangerous territory involving murder and identity theft.

Genres, Themes, Actors, and Directors:

  • Con-Artists
  • French Films
  • Mistaken or Hidden Identities
  • Psychopaths
  • Rene Clement Films

Review:
Nearly 40 years before Anthony Minghella gave us The Talented Mr. Ripley (1999), French director Rene Clement helmed this adaptation of Patricia Highsmith’s 1955 novel of the same name, albeit with a new title. (It was released as Plein Soleil — or Full Sun — in French, which seems to make a bit more sense than the inscrutable English translation; what is a “purple noon”?) Regardless of what it’s called, this early version remains a top-notch thriller in every way, with the cast, sets (in Italy), cinematography, and storyline all coming together to provide the type of classy suspense entertainment one expects from Highsmith (author of the novel upon which Hitchcock’s Strangers on a Train was based).

It was interesting watching this movie shortly after revisiting Michelangelo Antonioni’s L’Avventura (1960), given that they were released the same year, and both begin by showing privileged individuals out on a recreational boating trip in Italy that turns tragic — though the two storylines take completely different trajectories from there. Unlike L’Avventura, Purple Noon is heavily plot-driven, showing us the various steps Tom Ripley — one of literature’s best-known sociopaths — takes to try to secure his own fortunes at the ruthless expense of others.

Ripley (Delon is perfectly cast) may think he has a full-proof plan, but naturally, there are hiccups — including the inconvenient re-emergence of an American friend (Bill Kearns) first introduced to us in opening scenes.


Saying more about the details of this film may take away from the enjoyment of simply watching it, so I’ll leave my analysis somewhat succinct. Suffice it to say that this film remains gripping from beginning to end — and be prepared for a final surprise once you think all has resolved.

Notable Performances, Qualities, and Moments:

  • Alain Delon as Tom Ripley
  • Marie Laforet as Marge
  • Maurice Ronet as Philippe Greenleaf
  • Henri DecaĆ«’s cinematography

Must See?
Yes, as a foreign gem.

Categories

  • Foreign Gem
  • Important Director

Links:

One thought on “Purple Noon (1960)

  1. Rewatch. A once-must (with a decided caveat), for its place in French cinema history.

    Overall, this is an effective adaptation of the Highsmith novel and it gets a lot of things right, esp. a satisfying tone (as well as the murders). I certainly prefer it to the Minghella remake (which I didn’t particularly like, for a number of reasons).

    My main complaint, however, is that the ending completely goes against Highsmith’s intention. As she said, “It was a terrible concession to so-called public morality that the criminal had to be caught.”

    Tom Ripley is one of the most complex characters in American literature – which could explain why it’s so difficult ‘getting him right’ on film. I haven’t seen an adaptation of a Ripley book (the first three books in the series, at any rate) that’s as good as the novels.

    For this viewing, I came upon the release that was distributed thanks to Martin Scorsese. Maybe that’s why this print (for the most part) was dubbed in English. I hadn’t seen it with dubbing before (and it wasn’t badly done).

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