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Tom Ripley is sent to Europe by Mr. Greenleaf to fetch his spoiled, playboy son, Philippe, and bring him back home to the States. In return, Tom will receive $5,000. Philippe toys with Tom, pretending he will go back home, but has no intentions of leaving his bride to be, Marge, and honoring his father's wishes. After some time passes, Mr. Greenleaf considers the mission a failure and cuts Tom off. Tom, in desperation, kills Philippe, assumes his identity, and lives the life of a rich playboy. However, he will need all his conman abilities to keep Philippe's friends and the police off the trail. Written by
Humberto Amador/Peter Brandt Nielsen
Clément's camera is always in some unexpected place that enhances the drama and tightens the suspense; Alain Delon makes an excellent Tom Ripley
I'm fascinated by a scene at a restaurant. We get an extreme close-up of a woman who is kept out of focus while another character in the background, who is speaking and is in the center of the shot, remains in focus. Is the woman who is out of focus important or not? More to the point, was shooting it this way a good idea? It illustrates by contrast how sure-footed René Clément is most of the time. Usually there can be no debate.
I wasn't familiar with Clément's work until this film, but my God, he's good. His camera is always in some unexpected place that enhances the drama and tightens the suspense. He shares that talent with Orson Welles (meaning the Welles of "Citizen Kane" and "The Magnificent Ambersons," not, say, "Lady from Shanghai"), who also made decisions that are surprising yet invariably right.
Tom Ripley (Alain Delon) and Phillipe Greenleaf (Maurice Ronet) are lately inseparable friends. They're both idling in Europe, but on papa Greenleaf's dime. Phillipe's fiancée Marge (Marie Laforêt) feels sorry for Tom but resents his presence. Phillipe's other friend, Freddie (Billy Kearns), considers Tom Ripley a worthless moocher. But there's more to Tom Ripley, the mimic, the forger, the talented criminal improviser, than anyone, even Tom Ripley himself, can guess.
Alain Delon, with his chiseled looks and cold beauty, makes an excellent Tom Ripley. The script is brilliantly adapted from Patricia Highsmith's terrific suspense novel, "The Talented Mr. Ripley": the dialogue is always bringing the themes of duplicity, love, self-love, the nature of identity, ruthlessness and murder to the surface where they are given a brilliant sheen by Clément and his cinematographer Henri Decaë.
We're left to figure things out for ourselves, which is rare. Do we need to be told what Tom thinks of when he sees all those dead fish? When a door with a mirror swings open toward Tom, do we need to see Tom's mirror image to understand the mirror's significance? Or is it enough that we know there's a mirror next to Tom? I know what the answers would have been in Hollywoodin 1960 and now. Here, the answers are no, no and yes.
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