Purple Noon (1960)

Purple Noon (1960), directed by René Clément.

This version of The Talented Mr. Ripley drops us into the middle of the story, which is fine: we don't need an elaborate setup. Rich American Philippe Greenleaf ("Dickie" in the book) is wasting his life having a good time in Europe and his parents have hired Tom Ripley to go and fetch him back.

Ripley likes the life of the idle rich and sees no reason why it shouldn't be his. Adept at forgery and impersonation, if Greenleaf were out of the way he could assume his life, take his money and even his girl.

In the book the first murder seems a spontaneous outburst of frustration (Tom overheard girlfriend Marge call him a "fairy"). In this film it seems more calculated.

A problem with these stories: you can't stop with just one murder. After an unexpected survival scene on the sailboat, Ripley is coolly competent, always one step ahead of the police.

Lovely photography, beautiful people and gorgeous sailboat and ocean scenes. The characters are supposed to be American, but are played by French actors.

Alain Delon is so damned pretty we are meant to wonder about his sexual orientation. Author Highsmith claimed Ripley wasn't actually gay, but rather nonsexual. (I'm guessing real sex involved loss of control which he wouldn't want). In later books Ripley marries but the physical side is not very important to them.

A final shock: the ending is changed to make it softer than the book, more of a moral tale. French films have become more syrupy in recent years, but back then they were more often less sentimental.

Nino Rota score.

Criterion Blu-ray.