Purple Noon (1960)

purple noon poster 1960 movie plein soleil
8.5 Overall Score
Story: 8/10
Acting: 9/10
Visuals: 9/10

Strong adaptation, different from the 1999 version

Misses some of the interesting subtext of the 1999 version

Movie Info

Movie Name:  Purple Noon (Plein Soleil)

Studio:  Titanus

Genre(s):  Drama/Mystery/Suspense

Release Date(s):  March 10, 1960

MPAA Rating:  Not Rated

purple noon tom ripley dickie greenleaf alain delon maurice ronet

Tom and Dickie do everything together…gross

Tom Ripley (Alain Delon) has been given a cushy job.  He’s been “hired” by Mr. Greenleaf to travel to Italy to convince Greenleaf’s son Philippe (Maurice Ronet) to return home.  However, Philippe and Tom have a plan ot get as much money out of Philippe’s father before they head home and spend their days drinking and relaxing with Philippe’s girlfriend Marge (Marie Laforêt).  When Philippe begins to grow tired of Tom, and Tom begins to long for Philippe’s wasted life, Tom’s years of being a con artist might come into play…as he begins to become Philippe.

Directed by René Clément, Purple Noon (or the French title Plein Soleil) is an adaptation of Patricia Highsmith’s acclaimed 1955 novel The Talented Mr. Ripley.  The movie was the first major film of French star Alain Delon and was released to strong, positive reviews.  The Criterion Collection released a remastered version of the film (Criterion #637).

purple noon plein soleil tom ripley alain delon

I can be a jerk like Dickie if I practice hard enough!

I love The Talented Mr. Ripley.  I’ve read Patricia Highsmith’s novels and of course saw the 1999 version starring Matt Damon, Jude Law, and Gwyneth Paltrow in the lead roles.  I decided to go back and watch some of the other Ripley films that have been released over the years, and Purple Noon provides a completely different take on the story while maintaining most of the themes.

The story is a rather faithful adaptation of Patricia Highsmith’s novel.  It is a game of chess with Ripley trying to stay one step ahead of the law and the people who know Phillipe.  The relationship between Phillipe and Ripley is primarily financial…Ripley admires Phillipe’s life.  In turn he tries to adapt all aspects of Phillipe’s life including his girlfriend Marge.  While the 1999 version emphasized a homosexual storyline involving Tom’s love, this film takes this out…which takes away some sympathy from Ripley (even if Phillipe often acts like a jerk).  Tom’s actions aren’t acts of passions; they are cool and calculated.

purple noon plein soleil tom ripley freddie dead billy kearns alain delon

Weekend at Freddie’s

The cast is strong.  Being “Americans” in Europe, it is a bit odd to hear everyone speaking French in Italy (but American versions of European stories often do this so it is fair turn).  Unlike the 1999 version, the casting for this movie makes a lot more sense.  Delon’s Tom is backward, but he seems closer in appearance to Maurice Ronet which helps the deception.  Delon is much surer of himself in the movie than I picture the character which makes him cold, and Ronet is cocky, but also not as cocky and flighty as I picture Dickie Greenleaf.  Marie Laforêt has questions about Tom, but isn’t as suspicious as I’d like the character to be, and Freddie Miles as played by Billy Kearns has that weird bohemian American in Europe feel.

Visually, the Mediterranean location of Italy is great.  The movie pulls no punches involving Ripley’s crimes with Ripley just leaving Freddie on the floor for multiple scenes.  The blood of murder isn’t played up much, but it also gives it a sense of realism…and the play out of the final scene is shot masterfully even if you expect the film to end differently.

purple noon plein soleil tom ripley marge alain delon marie laforet

Gee, Marge…I can fill in for Dickie if you’d like

For me, it is hard to watch Purple Noon without reflecting on the 1999 version of the story.  I saw The Talented Mr. Ripley a lot when it was released and I feel Damon got the role pitch perfect with wanting to both be Dickie and being in love with Dickie.  This version is strong and great looking as well, but the decision to downplay the sexual nature of the story (which wasn’t greatly emphasized in the original text), loses a layer of story by taking away from the somewhat sympathetic aspect of Tom Ripley…he’s a lost soul that can’t seem to let good things happen without self-sabotage.  Purple Noon on the other hand paints a more cold-blooded killer that will do almost anything to get what someone else has.

Related Links:

The Talented Mr. Ripley (1999)


Author: JPRoscoe View all posts by
Follow me on Twitter/Instagram/Letterboxd @JPRoscoe76! Loves all things pop-culture especially if it has a bit of a counter-culture twist. Plays video games (basically from the start when a neighbor brought home an Atari 2600), comic loving (for almost 30 years), and a true critic of movies. Enjoys the art house but also isn't afraid to let in one or two popular movies at the same time.

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