Thursday, February 7, 2013

Purple Noon

Purple Noon (1960) - dir. Réné Clement
Pleasure, ecstasy, euphoria…these are emotions we all but yearn for. In Réné Clement’s Purple Noon we are shown a world that is a feast for the eyes, the ultimate playground for the senses. The sun-baked Mediterranean has never looked so inviting. From decadent hotels, to the azure coasts of the most delicious colors and palettes, this is the world for the rich and fortunate, and one in which we all feel the same emotion in the end, desire.

Now we step into the shoes of Tom Ripley, played by the magnetic Alain Delon. Paid to bring a wealthy businessman’s playboy son Philippe Greenleaf back to San Francisco to run the family company, what instead comes to pass is exactly what we the audience experience, desire. Tom desires Philippe’s life of wealth and carefree living, he desires his radiant girlfriend Marge, in fact Tom desires Philippe. As Geoffrey O’Brien noted, by the end of the film we not only understand Tom Ripley, we want what he wants.

What transpire is a sinister plot of murder and identity theft, as Tom acts to grasp the life he covets. A process which uncover’s a meticulous, intelligent and ultimately psychopathic mind, truly one of cinema’s most complex minds. The murder of Philippe belies a truly cold and calculating killer, lulling his victim into a false sense of security before the coup de grâce. Yet his love and gentle caresses of Marge show a sincere and sympathetic character. Further to this point the object of Tom’s (and our) desire Philippe is portrayed as equally, if not more so, sadistic. With his flippant appreciation Marge’s adoration, utter cruelty towards Tom’s fawning, Philippe is one which I’m sure we would all strike down should the opportunity arise. 

What did cause me some consternation was film’s ending, which for me was inconsistent not only with the source material, but also with the general tone of the film to that point. Perhaps it was the culture of the time, or a general morality play on what should be truly wicked character. This small criticism aside, I highly recommend this true work of art and cinema. 9/10


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