Plein Soleil or Purple Noon, as it is also known, is our latest Classic, put on jointly with the Wivenhoe Film Club, with an introduction and discussion led by Michael Padmore and Pam Job. Please note that it is on a Saturday, at 5pm, and is at the Nottage Maritime Institute, by the quay in Wivenhoe.
René Clément’s thriller stars Alain Delon as Tom Ripley, an American who travels to Europe on an all-expenses-paid mission to convince his friend, the errant playboy Philippe Greenleaf (Maurice Ronet), to travel to San Francisco at the request of the wealthy Greenleaf family. Initially, the pair enjoy the good life in Italy, often to the anger and dismay of Philippe’s much put-upon fiancée Marge (Marie Laforet). However, as Tom’s funds begin to run dry, it becomes more and more apparent that Philippe has no intentions of returning to the USA, forcing Tom to consider more nefarious means of maintaining his extravagant lifestyle. Plein Soleil is adapted from Patricia Highsmith’s novel, The Talented Mr. Ripley, and like Alfred Hitchcock’s classic Strangers on a Train, also based on Highsmith’s work, the theme of identity transference is dominant. The subject even extends to the homoerotic undercurrents which simmer below the surface of Tom and Philippe’s relationship, setting into motion a love/hate tension which explodes during a high seas journey.
David Thomson, the much esteemed film critic, says that it is a film of ‘great skill’ in the way that it uses the breathtaking beauty of Alain Delon to draw us in to the extent that we, the viewers, are practically accomplices in his amoral journey. Until, that is, we begin to feel the corruption beneath the beauty and it starts to sicken us. Thomson does not necessarily rate Delon as an actor but thinks that it the use of his complex and mysterious presence that makes the film remarkable. He calls it ‘a very good psychological thriller that feasts on the contrast between the heat of the Riviera and the chill in Tom Ripley’s blood’.
The film won the Edgar Allan Poe Award for Best Foreign Film of 1962.
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