Plot: What’s it about?
When I was thirteen years old, I began to see previews for a new movie starring Matt Damon and Jude Law called The Talented Mr. Ripley. The movie looked intriguing, but like most movies that I wanted to see, it bore an R-rating. My parents were pretty relentless about keeping me from watching anything over PG-13, and even that rating kept me from those films until I was thirteen for the most part. Seeing that I couldn’t see the film for myself, I did a little research at the local video store called Premiere Video. One of the managers informed me that the movie would be a remake of an older film called Plein Soleil or Purple Noon, and then the mistakingly informed me that Martin Scorcese had directed the film. Scorcese had in reality been influenced by the film. Looking on the back of the VHS I found that it had a PG-13 rating and rented it immediately. As a relatively intelligent thirteen year old, the movie failed to make complete sense to me but remained in my memory from the moment I finished it. It was also my first glimpse of a man that would later become one of my favorite actors, Alain Delon. Just this week I went to Barnes and Noble and bought the Blu-ray released by Criterion while it was on sale. I was excited to see the film after all these years.
The good news is that the film holds up beautifully.
The story begins by introducing us to Tom Ripley(Alain Delon) and Philippe Greenleaf (Maurice Ronet,) two Americans traveling in Italy. Philippe is wealthy and a bit of a a bastard who doesn’t think twice about cheating on his girlfriend Marge (Marie Laforet) while on his travels. Tom is a hanger-on who was sent by Philippe’s father to bring Philippe back to San Francisco. In turn his father will give home $5,000. It is clear that both men are menacing individuals when they give a blind man money to take his cane and find his way home. Philippe enjoys toying with people and especially enjoys leading Ripley along with no real hope of returning to San Francisco. Tensions rise while Philippe brings Ripley on his sail boat with Marge. Marge is uncomfortable with the situation and Philippe is brash about how he is toying with Ripley. Philippe has completely underestimated what Ripley has in store for him. Not to mention, Ripley has started to wear some of Philippe’s clothes.
The first thing that struck me about the film now as an adult was the heart,see tone of the film. The sense of detachment from basic human morality is really jarring and a huge accomplishment for the film. The next thing that will strike you is just how beautifully Clement shot the film. The Italian seaside towns in Napoli near Sorrento look amazing and so does the sea itself during the scenes on the sail boat. The best thing about the film is Alain Delon as Ripley. Delon is so cool and calmly charismatic that you will feel yourself rooting for a lying sociopath to get away with his crimes. Definitely check this film out.
Video: How’s it look?
Criterion did a commendable job on the transfer of the film. The movie retains a good amount of grain to leave in details. Depth and clarity are solid. The black levels are for the most part excellent. That said, this film shows its age and the original elements must not have been in great shape, because this film is not on the same level as some of Criterion’s more recent releases. Even with certain parts of the film looking a bit fuzzy or soft (which may be out of the original design?) the movie will still wow you when it needs to. The scenes at sea in particular left an indelible impression on me as a child no were breathtaking to see again as an adult. A solid if not overwhelming transfer.
Audio: How’s it sound?
This is a monaural track so it is relatively limited. That said, Criterion have done a tremendous job in preserving clarity in the audio. The dialogue is crisp and clear and the scenes on the boat really shine with atmosphere. There is nothing at all to complain about here, while also not much to note minus the lack of noticeable hiss. Sounds great!
Supplements: What are the extras?
- Trailer – original English-language trailer for Purple Noon. With some French and printed English subtitles. (4 min, 1080p).
- Denitza Bantcheva on Rene Clement – a solid interview covering the filmmaker’s career and some of the changes he made to the novel for the screen. (27 min, 1080p).
- Alain Delon – a very quick archival interview with Delon before he would be in his Melville classics. Good stuff. (10 min, 1080p).
- Patricia Highsmith – a fascinating interview with the author of the Ripley novels. This was well worth watching and paints a better picture of her intent in writing. (19 min, 1080p).
- Booklet – an illustrated booklet featuring an essay by film critic Geoffrey O’Brien and a reprinted interview with director Rene Clement.
The Bottom Line
Purple Noon is a fascinating film and one that I am e trembly excited to own. Although the video quality is not on par with Criterion’s best work and it was light on supplements, the Blu-ray comes highly recommended for having the film on the disk. It is absolutely fantastic and film lovers and world travelers will all agree it is worth having on your shelf.