Tuesday 17 January 2023

Purple Noon (Plein Soleil) [1960]

 Purple Noon’s synonymity with Alain Delon’s magnetic persona, mythical allure, feline profile and eerily shapeshifting performance is both a testimonial to René Clément’s terrific adaptation of Patricia Highsmith’s chilling and mesmeric source novel The Talented Mr. Ripley, and a potential trap for losing sight of its many attributes beyond Delon’s star-making turn. Whenever a masterful novel is adapted into an absorbing film, it’s as fascinating to note their alignments as their departures. Clément adroitly retained the complex essence of Ripley’s disturbing naïveté, unpredictability, chameleon-like nature and sociopathy, and also key elements of the book’s addictive plot; however, it transformed the book’s elegant narrative into a more jagged structure – manifested from the get-go by its abrupt beginning in media res –; replaced the book’s ambiguous finale to the film’s fatalist moral closure which Highsmith apparently disliked; downplayed Ripley’s homoerotic undercurrents while imbuing him with narcissism; and turned the character of Greenleaf (brilliantly played by Maurice Ronet) – who Ripley (Delon) is tasked by the latter’s millionaire American father to bring back from Europe – from a docile, drifting and contented guy to an abrasive, casually brutal and violently impulsive man who’s not averse to cruelly hurting his delicate, beautiful and loving fiancée Marge (Marie Laforêt) and humiliating, even punishing, Tom for his dalliances. Tom, who’s literally shoved himself into the couple’s personal space and is allured by Greenleaf’s entitled life, is himself not averse to committing murders, stealing identity, scheming, perpetrating forgeries and embezzlements, and manipulating or deceiving people, including the gullible Marge. The luscious, sun-baked photography of the luxurious Italian setting – from the majestic Rome to crumbling towns and sumptuous coasts – added sinister sordidness and moody atmosphere to this viscerally immersive thriller.

Director: Rene Clement

Genre: Thriller/Crime Thriller/Psychological Thriller

Language: French

Country: France

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