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, 16 June 2015

A new Mr Ripley at 60, plus Carol too ...

Tom Ripley is 60 – he first appeared in 1955 in Patricia Highsmith’s novel THE TALENTED MR RIPLEY. I had a Pan paperback edition when I was a teenager, circa 1962, and a few editions since, but I just had to get this new 60th anniversary hardback, from Virago, a handsome volume for the bookshelf, with new introduction, etc. Its a book I love re-reading. Highsmith's lucid prose draws one in from the first sentence. 

We like Ripley – and his Alain Delon incarnation a lot, here at the Projector – as per the labels. Rene Clement’s 1960 film PLEIN SOLEIL, shot in 1959, captures that high end Mediterranean glamour perfectly, and entranced me when I was 14. I did not relate to the 1999 film much at all, as Anthony Minghella expanded and changed the characters and the ‘50s fashions were too fussy and overdone – back in the 1959 film they – Delon, Marie Laforet, Maurice Ronet – looks very smart casual wearing clothes that still work now.  The book, too, is surprisingly frank for one written in the mid-'50s about Tom and the gay milieu he lived in New York (it starts with Tom sharing a grotty room with an obviously gay window dresser who is putting Tom up for a while, before Mr Greenleaf sends him to Italy ...), before more erotic frissons in Italy. Back in the Fifties, before mass air travel, a trip to Europe on an ocean liner was a treat indeed - by page 50 Tom has left seedy New York behind and arrives in that Italian village ...

Reading the book again one realises how easy it must have been to impersonate someone else back in that pre-internet world without computers, the risk of being photographed on cellphones or on constant CCTV ... 

Its shaping up to a Highsmith year, with Todd Haynes’ film of CAROL finally coming out of the traps, after very positive reviews at Cannes recently. If its half as good as his FAR FROM HEAVEN ….

I have just read her novel CAROL, here is the blurb:
Therese is just an ordinary sales assistant working in a New York department store just before Christmas when a beautiful, alluring woman in her thirties walks up to her counter. Standing there, Therese is wholly unprepared for the first shock of love. Therese is an awkward 19 year old with a job she hates and a boyfriend she doesn’t love; Carol is a sophisticated, bored suburban housewife in the throes of a divorce and a custody battle for her only daughter. As Therese becomes irresistibly drawn into Carol’s world, she soon realizes how much they both stand to lose …
First published pseudonymously in 1952 as THE PRICE OF SALT, CAROL is a hauntingly atmospheric love story set against the backdrop of Fifties New York. 
It was a bit hit at the time, the first lesbian love story with a happy ending …. As Highsmith says in the Afterword at the end. The thriller element comes into force too as the women realise they are being followed on their extended car trip and decide to confront the detective, and Carol has a gun ...

THE TALENTER MR RIPLEY also begins in Fifties New York with jittery Tom trying to evade that man who is following him through the bars of that gay milieu he inhabits – he thinks it is one of his shady deals coming apart but he turns out to be the father of Dickie Greenleaf, setting that plot in motion ….

Cate Blanchett, whom one imagines is the perfect Carol as one reads the book, was also of course in Mingella’s 1999 film of MR RIPLEY – one of her first eye-catching roles. Now she is finally leading CAROL (it was filmed last year, but does not open until this November) into the next award season … no doubt, a cunning Weinstein strategy. 

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