Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Plein soleil

TCM is showing a couple of films starring French actor Alain Delon tomorrow, even though his birthday is in November. Perhaps the best known of the movies would be Purple Noon, originally called Plein soleil in French. It's airing at 9:00 AM.

Delon stars as Tom Ripley, a name that might sound familiar to you. He's an American of lower-class upbriging who's been sent to Italy by the father of the wealthy but idle Philippe Greenleaf (Maurice Ronnet). The ting is, Philippe ran off to Italy to spend time with his girlfriend, Marge Duval (Marie Laforêt), and doesn't seem to show any interest in returning to the States. Dad wants him home, and is willing to spend a handsome sum on a reward for Tom's bringing Philippe home. The fact that Philippe is an adult seems to be lost on Dad, but that's another story. Philippe has no intention of going back to the States, but dammit, Tom wants the money. Also another story is Tom. What Dad apparently didn't know is that Tom has some ability at being a con artist, as we see him robbing a lady of some of her jewelry. That, and while nobody's looking he starts impersonating Philippe, something which Philippe is unsurprisingly unhappy about when he discovers it. What he doesn't realize until later is that Tom is getting his fingers far more into Philippe's life.

The resentment between Tom and Philippe continues. They may or may not have been friends when they were young -- that's a source of argument between them -- but Philippe certaintly seems to care less for Tom now, while Tom seems to be more and more intersted in the money: if he can't get it from Philippe's dad, he'll get it from Philippe. Philippe thinks that perhaps Tom was going to impersonate him to get that money. He's right, as it turns out, but not quite in the way he expected. Tom and Philippe eventually get into an argument on Philippe's boat, which results in Tom's stabbing Philippe to death and dumping the body overboard. Having apparently gotten away with murder at sea, what's a young conman to do next? There's that impersonation of Philippe. Tom does it partly to get at the money, but partly to make everybody think that Philippe is still alive but has gone off somewhere to get away from everybody. One person who suspects something is Freddy (Billy Kearns), another idle American who showed up briefly at the beginning. When he shows up again to confront Tom, he, like Detective Arbogast in Psycho figuring out something's happened to Marion Crane, winds up another victim of Tom.

Does all of this sound familiar? That's partly because it's based on a novel by Patricia Highsmith called... "The Talented Mr. Ripley". If you don't know the novel, then you probably remember the film from the late 1990s by the same title as the novel, starring Matt Damon in the Tom Ripley role and Jude Law as Greenleaf. Each film has its advantages and disadvantages. For the most part, Delon is excellent as Tom. He's the sort of charming person you could imagine having been incredibly popular at school, and somebody towards whom Philippe would naturally feel resentment. His performance makes the viewer want him to get away with the crimes he's committed. If there's anything wrong with Delon -- and with all of the actors in the movie -- it's that they're not quite believable as Americans. Oh, they're good characters; they're just noat American characters. Then again, I suppose that's a criticism you'd have to label at a whole lot of Hollywood movies set over in Europe: you've got wonderful American actors playing German or French or Polish or whatever. While they may make an interesting and high-quality movie, the characters they're playing just aren't anything like real Europeans.

Purple Noon has received more than one DVD release, but those DVD releases don't seem to be available from the TCM shop; only from Amazon.

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