Plein Soleil: The Perfect Crime(s)

The next film on our list is Plein Soleil, or Purple Noon if you're so inclined.  It's a 1960 psychodrama/thriller from France, starring Alain Delon.  Tom Ripley has been hired by an American industrialist to bring his shiftless layabout son home to San Francisco, to the tune of $5000.

I definitely saw the remake of this film (Anthony Minghella's The Talented Mr Ripley, starring Matt Damon and Jude Law) when I was younger, but somehow there's only one thing that really sticks out in my head about it.

Sorry Matt...not your finest moment.

Anyway, Tom Ripley is a very talented mimic, forger, and con man, so when it becomes clear that Philippe has no intentions of returning to America...Tom kills Philippe.

Not even joking.  He stabs him in the chest, wraps him up with an anchor, throws him overboard, and takes over his life.  Tom deftly weaves a web of lies, throwing everyone off his track.  He convinces the world that Philippe was alive and well in Rome.  When an acquaintance discovers that he is pretending to be Philippe, he kills him too.  And frames Philippe for the murder.  Seriously?  Who has the iron nerves it would take to pull this off?  He then creates a fake suicide for the already dead Philippe, believing that this would end the investigation.  Tom even manages to shack up with Philippe's girl, Marge, a girl he genuinely seems to have a yen for.

So that's it, right?  Tom just committed the perfect crime, and he's in the clear now.  Well, he would be if this was the book.  Since it's the movie, and is apparently under pressure to be all moralistic or some crap like that, they're honor-bound to show the consequences of breaking the law.  Lame.

Random Musings:

  • Your friend walks in on you making out with his full length mirror, pretending you're him and the mirror is his girlfriend.  #awkward

  • I hate when foreign films use white subtitles when there's a lot of white backgrounds.  So glad that now it's common practice to use yellow subtitles instead.

  • Philippe's a hardcore douche for abandoning Tom at sea in a tiny little dinghy so that he can bang Marge.  Even if it was just a joke, I kind of have a hard time feeling bad that he's dead.  Sunstroke is a bitch.

  • Oh shit, Tom planted the earring from Rome in Philippe's pocket.  Now Marge is going to find out that he's a cheating bastard.  Well played, Tom.  You are sneaky like a fox.

  • OMG Philippe just threw Marge's manuscript into the ocean.  As a fellow writer, I can't imagine someone willfully destroying all of my work.  I would cheerfully drown that son of a bitch.  OK, well, maybe not drown.  But he would definitely get punched in the nads.

  • Why would you keep a fat Buddha statue around the house if not to brain people with?

This film is really amazingly well shot.  I especially love how Rene Clement is able to find these little moments of dark humor.  The parts where Tom is trying to dispose of Philippe's body, only to have it accidentally get tied to the boat is comically horrific.  As is the scene when Tom is trying to carry Freddie Mile's dead body down the stairs, and we just see his dead arm dangling over the edge of the railing.  It's hilarious in a really sick kind of way.

Beyond that, the film is shot like the best tourism advertisement Italy is ever going to have.  Clement makes it look so beautiful and dreamy and luxurious.  I love it.

Speaking of is it that this is the first time I'm noticing how supernaturally attractive Alain Delon was back in the day???

But I guess that's beside the point.  I think he does a great job in this movie, managing to address each of the character's many layers.  Ripley is a deeply amoral guy...throughout the film he genuinely doesn't see anything wrong with his actions.  He doesn't feel remorse, all of his thoughts are too busy trying to stay several steps ahead of everyone else.  And in that way, he's enthralling to watch.  I have a soft spot in my heart for con men who are so much smarter than the rest of the world, and that's definitely Tom Ripley.  I gleefully cherished every moment he spent covering his tracks.  But there's more to him than that...he's also some insecurities and is almost uncomfortable in his own skin.  It's a well-rounded character deserving of a well-rounded performance, which Delon provides.

So how do I feel about the end?  Well, to be perfectly honest, I have to agree with the multitudes of critics of see it as kind of a cop out.  It's not that I think that all movies should end with the criminal getting away to avoid seeming like the filmmakers have some kind of moral agenda (the horror).  I just think that in this film, it would have been more emotionally satisfying and true to the rest of the movie if Tom had committed the perfect crime and totally got away with it.

That said, the ending is a minor complaint, and it certainly doesn't ruin the film.  It's a very interesting story, and brought to life very well by the actors in the film as well as Mr Rene Clement.  Well done, team!

Thanks for reading, and come back next time!

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