René Clément’s slick suspense thriller Plein Soleil, translated as Purple Noon, is bubbling over with attitude and terror. We first meet Tom Ripley on the streets of Italy, laughing and chatting with friend Philippe Greenleaf. We soon learn that Ripley is being paid by Greenleaf’s father to try and persuade Philippe to return home to the United States to learn and takeover his father’s business. It is apparent that Philippe himself does not intend to return to the States but what becomes more concerning is that Tom seems to have no intention to convince Philippe to travel home. In fact, Tom’s own plans are still blurry and uncertain. Soon enough we find the two men on a yacht with Philippe’s fiancé Marge. Marge makes it clear that she is uncomfortable with Tom’s constant presence and he becomes more and more unwelcome as the trip continues. Tom has a creepy fascination with both Marge and Philippe and we witness him causing havoc between the two. Philippe taunts Tom harshly and finally it’s just two men on a boat and whilst the scorching sun beams down over both men, Tom makes his move and begins a cycle of deceit and crime that he himself is not entirely prepared for. As the sun consumes our characters, Tom’s mind becomes consumed with a plan that will takeover his life and define his future. You can almost hear the cogs turning in his head as he prepares to commit to the ultimate con.
A film about trickery, secrecy and disguise, Purple Noon is undeniably cool. It is evocative and seductive and as the plot develops into an exciting tale of cat and mouse the suspense continues to build. René Cléments refuses to release this tension until the final moments of the film; keeping his audience tangled up in Tom’s own lies and sin. Seeing everything from Tom’s perspective is a delightful treat for us as the audience who can’t help but indulge in Mr Ripley’s manoeuvres and craft. Alain Delon is a master of the cinematic villain. Here we see his thought processes, as Tom Ripley, and watch him portray a character whose head is always barely above the water; close to drowning. Marie Laforêt is a superb supporting actress who drives the film emotionally and causes constant battles and obstacles for Tom. Purple Noon demonstrates the beauty of simplistic storytelling which falls perfectly against a romantic Italian backdrop. The final moments of the film are deliciously exciting as our mouse journeys closer to the mouse trap. The resolution, if it can be called such a thing, is satisfying and smug. The cinematography, direction and performances are precise and sleek and combine to make Purple Noon a cinematic thriller that is clean-cut, timeless and enticing.
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