Dedications: My four late friends Rory, Stan, Bryan, Jeff - shine on you crazy diamonds, they would have blogged too. Then theres Garry from Brisbane, Franco in Milan, Mike now in S.F. / my '60s-'80s gang: Ned & Joseph in Ireland; in England: Frank, Des, Guy, Clive, Joe & Joe, Ian, Ivan, Nick, David, Les, Stewart, the 3 Michaels / Catriona, Sally, Monica, Jean, Ella, Anne, Candie / and now: Daryl in N.Y., Jerry, John, Colin, Martin and Donal.

Tuesday, 9 December 2014

The Ripleys again: Matt or Alain?

We had to have another look at THE TALENTED MR RIPLEY on television once again, the other day, despite rushing to it when released in 1999 and seen it several times since. It is Anthony Minghella's glossy adaptation of Patricia Highsmith's classic novel and is an engaging, if hollow, thriller in bright Italian sunshine. Minghella though, as per his published screenplay, greatly expands on the novel fleshing out characters, played by Cate Blanchett and Jack Davenport, who are barely mentioned by Highsmith. Cate is rich girl Meredith, while Jack is Ripley's new love - whom he has to get rid of in order to continue his duplicitous new life. 
We note also how Dickie is made more of a heel - getting that local girl pregnant and his indifference when she drowns herself - so presumably we the audience do not feel too bad when he is bumped off - but of course Jude Law is so charismatic here the film drifts once he is not there to tease and taunt Matt Damon's nerdy needy Tom. So its an overlong, drawn out affair as our glamorous people act out Highsmith's chilling tale. Philip Seymour Hoffman scores too in that key small role
What sinks it for me is the trowelled-on Fifties period detail - all those fussy '50s fashions they wear, with hats and gloves. Whereas in Rene Clement's PLEIN SOLEIL, the 1959 original, they were smart casual clothes that would still be fashionable now, they look strikingly modern in fact - and 24 year old Alain Delon, stunnng Marie Laforet and Maurice Ronet as Dickie are all perfectly right. Its a shorter tale, and even with that changed ending, it works better. Delon in that ice blue suit strolling around the market, and Marie Laforet as Marge strumming that guitar surrounded by her Fra Angelico prints, and the tensions of the three of them on the boat, and of course Dickie suddenly realising he is in danger after pushing Tom too far ... all set on the real mediterranean of 1959 as captured by Henri Decae's glowing colours. 
I have written a lot about PLEIN SOLEIL here, see the labels below, It is of course the tale of how New York wannabe Tom Ripley's life changes after he is sent to Italy to haul back errant playboy Dickie Greenleaf. In the 1999 version Matt Damon makes Ripley suitably sinister and needy and Jude Law is at his charismatic best as the wastrel rich boy whom Ripley wants for himself or failing that to be him, taking over his life ...just as Delon and Ronet played it in 1959.
I first saw that version when 14 in 1960, when it opened my eyes to European glamour and beauty. Its a seminal movie for me. as much as 2001, BLOW-UP, or LA NOTTE BRAVA, SANDRA, MODESTY BLAISE, WHATS NEW PUSSYCAT? etc. but THE TALENTED MR RIPLEY is fascinating too.

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