Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Plein Soleil (1960)

Good morning! And isn't this a nice face to wake up to?

I see you seein' me, Alain Delon. Lookin' good, sir!
I just finished watching Plein Soleil (Purple Noon) on YouTube this morning, and what a picture! WHAT A PICTURE! In spite of the American title and poster making it look like a late eighties', Brigitte Nelson, steamy-romance type movie you'd catch on USA Network in the mid-afternoon (blech!), it's actually the first film adaptation of Patricia Highsmith's The Talented Mr. Ripley. Surprised? I was. Above, Alain Delon steps into Ripley's shoes, who, eventually, if you're familiar with the plot, steps into Dickie Greenleaf's shoes. Dickie is renamed "Phillippe" for the movie, while his girlfriend "Marge" retains her American moniker. Not sure how that works, but there you go.

If you didn't catch the 1999 movie version with a pre-baldness Jude Law (do you remember how gorgeous millenium-era Jude Law was?) and Matt Damon, or the book, the plot of all three properties revolves around a classic-definition sociopath named Tom Ripley, who (spoiler alert) murders a rich young American living in Italy and assumes his identity. If you think he'd spend the rest of the movie living it up, Riviera-style, you'd be wrong-- has Dateline taught you nothing? Most of the post-murder of the story involve an ever tightening, ever claustrophobic web of deceit, as one lie leads to another and another, and one murder leads to another. And the ending! I purposefully didn't show you what happens in the last five minutes. Lemme tell you though, for 1960, it was a h-a-r-s-h ending, up there with the last five minutes of Cagney in The Public Enemy.

Director René Clément was a big name in mid-century French cinema (Forbidden Games, Is Paris Burning?), and you can really see his talent for framing shots in this movie. Every scene looks like a still painting. Alain Delon is famous for being a) one of the most handsome French actors of all time, hands down and b) with Romy Schneider, one half of one of the most gorgeous superstar-couples of all time. Oh, and Le Samouraï. Something about his eyes in particular....the man is almost preternaturally handsome.

Imitating Greenleaf in the mirror while wearing his clothes...sure, why not?

The casting of Tom in either of these movies is interesting to me-- I read a compilation of the three Ripley books Highsmith wrote but I can't remember her intial description of Tom's looks. Isn't it interesting that he's attractive? Using gorgeous Alain Delon and gorgeous Matt Damon as the "have-nots" to the Greenleaf character's "have" makes their naked ambition all the more poignant-- the only thing separating Tom from the upper crust is his lack of money. He's intelligent, he's good looking, but broke. While the 1997 film has an open, clear policy that Tom is obviously physically as well as emotionally attracted to Dickie, the 1960 version leaves that part of Tom's character ambiguous. While he Tom worships Phillippe/Dickie on some levels, it's also clear that Tom hates him as much as he wants to be him. I don't want to give too much away, but it's just so good!

Marie LaForêt plays Marge, the third party in this love triangle, and spends a lot of time on screen wearing clothes I would like to wear. Some scenes are shot with a Leone-style tight closeup of Tom and Marge's eyes, and my, what big eyes they do have. Laforêt's seem to take up the most part of her face in some shots. Plein Soleil marks her first screen appearance, a year after she was a last minute replacement for her sister on a Star Search style radio programme and won. Pauvre sœur Laforêt!

Enough backstory, though; take a look at the movie!

See Greenleaf's apartment? I want to live, while wearing the aforementioned Marge wardrobe! The red accent on the far wall is killing me. So chic! Right down to the plants. Umph.

What better than Alain Delon in an early 60's movie? Alain Delon in an early 60's movie in tiki themed clothes. This Hawaiian shirt is adorable.:

Slick as a whistle in a deep blue suit:

What an ELMO projector of the 1960's looked like:

Again, the composition is perfect. See the yellow and grey striped wallpaper contrasted with his blue patterned dressing gown?

I never noticed that the underside of a stingray has a kind of face! From a scene in the market:

And again, multiple evidences of the knock-you-down beauty of the two stars:

If you like French murder mystery kind of movies, and even if you don't, Plein Soleil is a winner. If you don't, well you should, and it's still a winner. You can see the whole film on youtube under this playlist. Nashville Public Library used to have a copy, but it was on VHS, and we've apparently gotten rid of it. Dommage!

Seen any good movies lately? Have any French cinema classics that are a particular fave? Let a little francophile know! See you tomorrow.

PS: I knew I had a Marie Laforêt song somewhere on my iTunes. Here she is singing the very one, impossibly large eyes and all. Doesn't she look like one of those Victorian engravings of beautiful but doomed tubercular patients?



  1. Aaaah, cracking up at the stingray face!
    Thanks for this--it looks awesome! Maybe I'll pop it on my to-watch list.

  2. Oh this is fantastic! I had no idea. The Talented Mr. Ripley is one of my favorite movies and books! Will definitely have to check this out. One of my favorite films is White. I used to rent it and watch it over and over. Red and Blue also.

  3. You had me at ALAIN DELON'S FACE! Jeeze oh petes, could there be a more smoldering movie star? I've never seen this movie though. I'm checking Netflix for it pronto!

    P.S. I'm hosting a giveaway today. You should totally enter. :)

  4. Whoa, I need to check out this movie. It looks goregeous!

    What Lola Wants



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