Purple Noon / The Talented Mr. Ripley
Directors: Rene Clement / Anthony Minghella
Writer: Patricia Highsmith
Starring: Alain Delon, Maurice Ronet, Marie Laforet / Matt Damon, Jude Law, Gwyneth Paltrow
Review By: Griff
I am sure that many of you have seen the version of The Talented Mr. Ripley that came out back in 1999. What some of you may not know is that it is actually a remake of a french film that came out back in 1960 called Purple Noon. In that version Tom is played by Alain Delon (Who you may recognize for Le Samourai. If you haven’t seen Le Samourai, do yourself a favor and hunt it down.) and Maurice Ronet plays Philippe (Dickie) Greenleaf. (Ronet wasin Elevator to the Gallows. Again, if you haven’t seen it…) I had the opportunity recently to sit down and watch these two films back to back and I thought it would be interesting to do a little compare and contrast of the two films.
Both movies are based on the 1955 novel by Patricia Highsmith. (She is probably most well known for having written Strangers on a Train that Hitchcock adapted into arguably one of his best movies.) The plot revolves around a young man named Tom who is hired by a shipping magnet to go to Italy to try to convince his expatriate son Dickie to return home.
Instead of bringing him back however, Tom admits to Dickie about his fathers plan and the two men become friends and Tom starts hanging around with Dickie and his girlfriend Marge. Tom becomes infatuated with Dickie and his privileged carefree lifestyle. Before long Dickie starts to grow tired of Tom and starts to find his behavior to be strange. Tom begins to sense that Dickie is about to cut him loose so he kills Dickie while the two of them are alone on a boat. Then he ties Dickie’s body to the anchor and dumps him overboard.
Now that Dickie is out of the way Tom attempts to take over his life. He steals his identity and begins collecting Dickie’s trust fund. Things are going well for Tom until he is begins getting confronted by Dickie’s friend Freddie and his girlfriend Marge. Tom enters into a complicated game of cat and mouse trying to convince everyone that Dickie is still alive but has just decided to become a bit of a recluse. Things begin to fall apart and Tom is forced to take more dramatic actions in order to protect his new life.
The most striking contrast between the two films is with the lead character. Matt Damon plays Ripley as more of a victim of circumstance. When he kills Dickie it is more by accident then by plan. He attempts to win the audience over to Tom’s side by showing him as more of an outsider who feels awkward and never really fits in. Delon’s Tom is the opposite. He is cold and calculating and has planned out the murder of Dickie well in advance. He is character is much more morally reprehensible.
Jude Law’s Dickie is also very different from Ronet. Dickie is much more of a happy go lucky likable character. Ronet’s Dickie is a bit more heartless. From the very beginning he sees Tom as more of a plaything. He enjoys torturing him and at one point even sets him loose on a dingy resulting in Tom getting severe sun stroke.
Marge is much more trusting of Tom in Purple Noon. She believes Tom when he tells her that Dickie wants to break up with her and she is actually charmed by Tom. At one point they even begin having a relationship together. In the newer film Marge suspects Tom almost immediately and even goes so far as to outright accusing him of having killed Dickie.
So which one is better? That is really hard to say. They are both beautifully shot and each one had some things about it that I enjoyed. I do think that Delon’s Tom is the better of the two. Damon is good, but Delon’s creepy charm seems to more embody the character for me. Both films are beautifully shot with some amazing scenery. I liked the inclusion of the jazz theme in The Talented Mr. Ripley and I think it added something to the characters. Truthfully, I don’t think you go wrong with either film and you should give them both a try. If I had to pick I think I prefer Purple Noon. It has a little bit more of a nasty grittier vibe to it. One big downside to Purple Noon though is the strange ethical ending that has been tacked on it. This ending takes away from what the author intended and gives the movie a awkward feel to it.
On a side note…If you enjoy these movies and want to see something that is a little bit more off the beaten path but dealing with the same theme of switching identities you should give The Passenger from back in 1975 with Jack Nicholson a try. Definitely a little bit more heavy then these movies but still great.
The Talented Mr. Ripley