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
A thriller?Only because it's adapted from a Patricia HIghsmith's novel,and because this friend is none other than Thomas Ripley the criminal dandy.It's an adaptation of "Ripley's games" but it also alludes to the former "Ripley goes underground" when it alludes to fake paintings.Although the treatment may seem "modern",the novel's main topic has been kept:when you've got a lethal disease ,and when you leave behind a wife and a young boy,is it a crime to slay a criminal?
Only strong actors could pull it off,and here we deal with Bruno Ganz and Dennis Hopper:the former,now sixty,was playing "Faust" on stage a few months ago,21 hours with an intermission (!)He was already one of the best German actors at the time.He 's Jonathan,a poor lad who's got nothing to lose.Wenders does wonders when he shows his antihero overwhelmed by an inhumane urban environment,particularly in the spectacular metro (French subway) scene.Hopper is also very effective ,a much better Ripley than Delon's in "purple noon" (plein soleil),because he's American after all.He gives a stunning performance,now threatening,now comforting,finally giving support to the unfortunate Jonathan.You should see him humming Dylan's "I pity the poor immigrant" and the Beatles' "Drive my car".
The cast is very odd:outside the two leads,we find Gérard Blain,who was twice Chabrol's star (les cousins,le beau serge) and had fallen into oblivion ,at least in France-he recently died.His reappearance in the middle of such a crepuscular thriller adds to the doomed atmosphere.And that's not all:Samuel Fuller,who was to direct a movie in France several years later("les voleurs de la nuit "-thieves after dark- not on a par with his best American movies like "shock corridor" or "pick up on south street")and Nicholas Ray whose last days Wenders filmed soon after(some critics called it a "bad taste " work)in "Nick's movie are also part of this strange gathering.
Wenders' most accessible movie,the less pretentious,and along with "Strangers on a train" the best adaptation of Patricia Highsmith for the screen.
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