Tom Ripley has a sweet deal with an art forger. The forger creates the paintings; Tom sells them. But another criminal business associate wants Tom to go in for an even riskier enterprise: murder. Tom suggests his associate ask a local picture framer instead. That man has a fatal disease, or so it's rumored. More, he has a wife and kid that surely he wouldn't want to leave penniless. Let this picture framer be a hit man, and no one will suspect. The terminally ill craftsman may agree to the misdeed, and several more, but he'll end up needing Tom Ripley in a pinch. Written by
Wim Wenders' tribute to American film noir, with cameos for two great American directors, Sam Fuller and Nicholas Ray, and boasting the most imaginative cinematography ever and the most beautifully ominous music, is finally available in widescreen enhanced DVD. What is it about about Patricia Highsmith which inspires so many directors? From Alfred Hitchcock (Strangers on a Train) to Anthony Minghella (The Talented Mr. Ripley), via Jean-Pierre Melville (Cry of the Owl) and Rene Clement (Plein soleil aka Purple Noon), her novels have translated to the screen with astonishing effect. Purple Noon and The Talented Mr. Ripley adapt the same book in such different yet equally gripping ways that curiosity forced me to seek out the novel, and then the other four Tom Ripley novels. Ripley's Game, the source for The American Friend, is arguably the best of the five, and perhaps of all her novels. Jonathan (Bruno Ganz), not Ripley himself (Dennis Hopper) is the real protagonist. The Hamburg-to-Munich train sequence is probably the centerpiece, but the Paris subway scene is just as incredible (ending in La Defense before the Grande Arche was built). Dialogue flows easily between German, English, and French. Just one example of sensitive detail - when Jonathan (Ganz)is reading his hopeless medical report in a steel/glass/concrete modernist Paris apartment, the camera zeroes in on the miniature Statue of Liberty replica on a concrete island under a bridge across the Seine. A symbolic representation of the title?
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