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Anthony Minghella’s 1999 thriller, The Talented Mr. Ripley, may share the same title as Patricia Highsmith’s 1955 novel, but in terms of being a more accurate adaptation, it is René Clément’s 1960 film, Purple Noon (Plein soleil) that more closely hits the mark. A lush, sun drenched thriller that neither moralizes nor seeks to redeem or explain its antagonist, Tom Ripley (Alain Delon), the film eases through its plot with an ease and pathos. Ripley is sent to Rome on an all-expenses-paid trip with but one purpose, to bring the playboy son, Phillipe Greenleaf (Maurice Ronet), of his benefactor back to the United States. Tom’s presence quickly wears on Greenleaf’s much put-upon girlfriend Marge (Marie Laforêt) and with his funds thinning and a growing taste for a lavish lifestyle, he quite easily lapses into a self-serving, murderous plan to kill off Greenleaf and take his place.
Dripping with suspense, but lightly handled by Clément, and gloriously filmed by cinematographer Henri Decaë, Purple Noon breezes through its criminally-minded mise-en-scène with a picturesque beauty like a flash of picture postcards. One of the most fascinating sequences you will see is the sailboat scene, where Clément’s documentary style comes into play. It is exciting and truly riveting film work. Purple Noon is also almost coy and seductive in its indulgence in the darker side of the human psyche. As Ripley negotiates his way through escaping the long arm of the law, as it were, the backdrops we are presented with are the lightest, wisps of scenery, and the characters practically carefree.
‘This new digital transfer was created in 2K resolution on an ARRISCAN film scanner from the original camera negative; two original 35mm prints made at LTC, Paris, were used for color reference. Thousands of instances of dirt, debris, scratches, splices, warps, jitter, and flicker were manually removed using MTI’s DRS and Pixel Farm’s PFClean, while Image Systems’ Phoenix was used for small dirt, grain, and noise reduction.‘
Criterion’s efforts in this release yield very pleasurable results in this AVC encodement. The film has very natural layer of grain, good contrast, and looks impeccably clean, while still giving up lots of textural information. Colors are vividly saturated and the flesh tones look perfectly bronzed, just as they were intended in this sun soaked picture.
The original monaural soundtrack was mastered at 24-bit from a 35mm optical soundtrack print. It’s provided on this release in French LPCM 1.0 (48kHz/24-bit) with an accompanying English subtitle track. As far as 1.0 tracks go, it works, with little noise, hum, or hiss, and offers intelligible, if somewhat boxy, sounding dialogue.
A typically rich selection of pertinent features, including some archival interviews, accompany the Criterion Collection’s release of Purple Noon. Each inclusion expands your understanding of this film and its director.
- Denitza Bantcheva on René Clément (1.78:1; 1080p/24; 00:26:43) – This interview with film historian and author Denitza Bantcheva was conducted by the Criterion Collection at the Chez Justine Café in paris in August 2012.
- Alain Delon (1.33:1; 1080p/24; 00:09:22) – This interview with actor Alain Delon, conducted and directed by François Chalais, first aired on the French television program Cinépanorama on November 24, 1962. Among other topics, Delon discusses working with director René Clément, with whom he would make four films: Purple Noon (1960), The Joy of Living (1961), Joy House (1964) and Is Paris Burning? (1966).
- Patricia Highsmith (1.33:1; 1080p/24; 00:19:01) – This interview with Patricia Highsmith, conducted by Agnès Thierre and Pierre Lambert and directed by Lambert, first aired on the French television program Variances on August 3, 1971.
- Trailer (1.66:1; 1080p/24; 00:04:04)
- Booklet: The booklet contains an essay on the film by film critic Geoffrey O’Brien and lengthy excerpts from a 1981 interview with Clément. These are both essential reading to further understand the intricacies of Purple Noon as a work of art.
The Definitive Word
A magnificent thriller that shakes off much of the traits of the genre and instead opts for a shimmering, and breezy, suspense-filled ride through the pathological, Purple Noon is simply put a masterpiece of crime and seduction. This belongs in every cinephile’s catalogue and Criterion has done well by this film, offering a beautiful transfer.
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