Take 2 of 3: "Purple Noon" (1960)

Tom Ripley (Alain Delon) practices his hand at forgery in Purple Noon.

Has there ever been a bad film adaptation of a Patricia Highsmith novel?  Having not seen Liliana Cavani’s Ripley’s Game I can’t speak to its merits—but even if it may be a dud we still have Strangers on a Train, The American Friend, The Talented Mr. Ripley, and Carol.  And Purple Noon (1960, dir. Rene Clement), one of the earliest attempts at adapting Highsmith for the movies, with Alain Delon as jet-setting criminal Tom Ripley.  Cool and comfortable within the private world of his own amorality, Delon’s Ripley floats through the film, his very blandness allowing him to adapt, chameleon-like, to each situation in which he finds himself (and to appropriate others’ identities whenever convenient).  Purple Noon downplays the homoeroticism of the source text pretty significantly, even going so far as to invent a tryst (albeit a queerly triangulated one) between Ripley and his best friend’s girl.  It also rewrites the ending of Highsmith’s novel in order to punish Ripley, and in so doing invents a somewhat clunky twist—though it didn’t bother me any more than do the often-clunky denouements of any number of classic Hollywood noirs. The film as a whole is involving and pretty and sexy enough to withstand a few false notes.

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