This beautiful Studio Canal funded restoration, for the new cinema release and for the first time on Blu-ray, really does credit to Henri Dacae’s cinematography genuinely bringing to life the scenery and the pretty boy looks of its lead actor Alain Delon. Delon, in his first major film, plays Tom Ripley in this early adaptation of Patricia Highsmith’s 1955 novel The Talented Mr Ripley. It was of course adapted again when the late Anthony Minghella directed it in 1999 under its original title, but this time featuring Matt Damon as Ripley, Jude Law as Greenleaf and Gwyneth Paltrow as Marge.
The French director Rene Clement directed this 1960 version and as well as Delon it included Maurice Ronet as Greenleaf and the attractive Marie Laforet played Marge in her debut role. We are also treated to a brief uncredited appearance from Romy Schneider, who at the time was Delon’s squeeze.
Ripley is in Italy under the pretext of returning Paul Greenleaf back to America to become part of the family business, if he succeeds with this task he will get $5000 for his trouble. But Greenleaf will not return and is quite happy living a life of luxury swanning around the Italian Riviera and sailing his lavish yacht with his girlfriend Marge. This life style, and Marge, is a great attraction to Ripley who, while at sea, stabs and kills Greenleaf disposing of his body at sea. When he finally gets to shore he begins a deception that he hopes will allow him to share in the opulence that he craves so much. Until the murder the story is quite ponderous, after that it picks up and develops into an absorbing wee thriller where we watch the clever Ripley live his double life, even hiding Greenleaf’s demise from the rather gullible Marge.
An interesting extra on the Blu-ray is an interview with Alain Delon 55 years after he made this film, a film that put him firmly on the pathway to fame. He tells us that that he learnt more from working with Rene Clement than from some of the other world famous directors he worked with like Visconti, Antonioni, Melville, Losey or Godard. Clement treated his actors like human beings and not like commodities. Originally he was cast as Greenleaf and Jacques Charrier was cast as Ripley. Charrier was married to Brigitte Bardot and she was pregnant with her first and only child, it was to be with her that he cancelled his contract. Delon, with the help of Clement’s wife Bella, persuaded the director to let him play Ripley, and the rest is history.
Said to have influenced many other directors, Plein Soleil (1960) was adapted by Clement and Paul Gegauff. It does in fact have subtle differences from the Minghella version and the novel. It uses advanced technology for the times, especially the scenes on the boat. But the film belongs to Alain Delon; a naturally graceful actor with whom the camera was in love and for this reason if nothing else the film is well worth seeing.