Kyle Cubr reviews “Purple Noon” on Cine-File

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NOTE: Spoilers! — Loosely adapted from Patricia Highsmith’s novel The Talented Mr. Ripley, René Clément’s PURPLE NOON circles around conman Tom Ripley’s (Alain Delon) exploits to persuade his wealthy friend Phillipe Greenleaf (Maurice Ronet) to return to the United States and take over his father’s business with Tom believing that he’ll share in the money. While on a yachting trip with Phillipe’s girlfriend, Marge (Marie Laforêt), Tom is nearly left stranded by Phillipe when the dinghy he’s forced into that is being towed by the boat breaks free and goes unnoticed. After Tom is brought back aboard from his near exile, Marge gets into a fight with Phillipe (thanks to Tom’s meddling) and demands to be put ashore. Much of this sequence feels like a sort of precursor to Polanski’s KNIFE IN THE WATER. Now alone with each other and back at sea, Tom kills Phillipe when it’s revealed he had no intention of returning to the United States. Tom assumes Phillipe’s identity via his forgery skills and Phillipe’s typewriter so that he may finally live the lavish life he has just caught a taste for. Clément’s film has a bright color palette that juxtaposes the nefarious actions occurring on screen. The idyllic Italian settings of coastal towns and Rome make for picturesque hiding places as Tom tries to stay one step ahead of Phillipe’s family, friends and Marge, whom all believe Phillipe to still be alive, as well as the police, when a friend of Phillipe’s is murdered after nearly discovering Tom’s ruse. Delon’s debonair charm suits his character fantastically and would go on to be similarly utilized a few years’ time with Melville’s LE SAMOURAÏ. What’s most interesting about PURPLE NOON is Tom’s motivations for his actions. Is it just something he did for fun that went too far? Is it because he’s envious of his friend’s life and girlfriend? Or maybe is it because he’s inclined to be anyone and everyone but himself? Like an animal trapped in a corner, Tom will do anything to survive. His perseverance makes PURPLE NOON an enrapturing and satisfying viewing.

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