The Talented Mr. Ripley by Patricia Highsmith was a smash hit when it was first published in 1955 introducing the world to the charismatic psychopath known as Tom Ripley who returned in five further novels collectively known as the Ripliad.
Although most people are more familiar with the 1999 film of the same name staring Matt Damon as Ripley alongside Gwyneth Paltrow and Jude Law the earlier and far superior adaptation came in 1960 under the title Plein Soleil or Purple Noon.
Directed by René Clément one of the leading French directors of the post-World War II era the film saw the amazing Alain Delon in his first major film role as Tom Ripley an American sent to Italy to bring back the rich and reckless Philippe Greenleaf (Maurice Ronet) before he spends all his father’s money on frivolities.
The more time Ripley spends with Philippe and his fiancé Marge (Marie Laforêt), who Greenleaf treats terribly, the more he becomes fixated by his life spent spending money and playing with people and he becomes desperate to emulate and even replace his rich friend wearing his clothes and following him around like a lost pet.
Although Philippe taunts and teases Tom on his lowly status and lack of funds he keeps him around to amuse himself and relieve his own millionaires ennui seeing nothing threatening or even strange about Ripley’s behavior even when he starts claiming the pair have known each other since childhood something that is completely made up.
When the trio take to sea on a yachting trip things begin to boil over and tempers and passions flair between all parties resulting in Marge and Philippe breaking up and her leaving the boat.
Alone together Ripley starts to reveal his true intentions and Philippe finally sees the real face of the man he has let into his life. The only question that remains is how far will Ripley go to get what he wants and will anyone be able to stop him?
With a very Hitchcock-ian fell to the film, Highsmith also wrote Strangers on a Train, the story shots along twisting and turning till the final pay off made all the more unpredictable by the character of Ripley who although the central focus of the movie is also the primary villain.
Beautifully shot and looking all the more radiant and ravishing in StudioCanal’s 4K Blu-ray restoration Plein Soleil feeds the mind as well as the eye with the entire set up and story open to be seen as a class war of the over privileged rich against the socially stunted poor played out between the principle pair.
Tense and taught from the start Plein Soleil is a stylish psychological thriller propelled forward by a cast of brilliant and complex characters brought to life by some excellent actors the most important and impressive of all being Delon.
As Ripley he is both charismatic and crazy, innocent and evil, likable and emotionally empty and as the film follows his story so closely the audience cannot help but take his side and begin to care for this sociopath who can be so kind and caring in one scene yet brutally murder a man in the next.
Hugely influential on everything from Dead Calm to Simon Killer Plein Soleil still stands strong as a complex and engaging examination of a psychopath perfectly portrayed by the Alain Delon who proves here in his first big role what a major cinematic talent he would go on to be.