Reflections on 'The Talented Mr. Ripley' (2000)

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Typical, merely okay "behind the scenes" doc
1 December 2010 | by (New York, New York) – See all my reviews

A major omission ruins this well-meaning doc about THE TALENTED MR. RIPLEY. The fact that the film is a remake of René Clément's classic thriller PURPLE NOON (Plein soleil) is carefully omitted by the late Anthony Minghella when discussing the evolution of his script.

He points out the key features of adapting Patricia Highsmith's novel to the screen, and how he made important changes, especially surrounding the character played by Cate Blanchett (beefed up specifically to take advantage of her talent), not prominent in the novel or present in the previous film.

Why filmmakers are reticent or even misleading regarding the ancestry of their work is beyond me. Anyone who is a big fan of PURPLE NOON will recognize many imitations in the remake of scenes from the original, right from the poor substitute of a rowboat for the fabulous yacht murder sequence of the original, to the murder of Freddy scene with a little statue as weapon. Just setting the film in the late '50s in beautiful Italian settings is an unnecessary nod to the look (provided by fabulous cameraman Henri Decae) of the previous movie, as Minghella could have easily updated the project to make it a contemporary film rather than a redundant period piece. The original from 1959 has become a period piece after 50 years -it's late '50s setting was simply contemporary when shot.

Otherwise, beyond the usual mutual admiration society nature of these "DVD extras" interviews, most of these topnotch actors, especially Hoffman and Blanchett, did reveal a great understanding of the characters they were playing -big surprise. Damon's inability to fit the shoes of previous star, unbeatable Alain Delon, is a subject that's off the table here.

I would like to see an arm's length documentary about the character of Tom Ripley, and the extremely different screen impersonations of him, ranging from Delon and Damon to John Malkovich, Barry Pepper and Dennis Hopper. It's hard to come up with a screen character (other than the most oft-filmed like Dracula) that has had such contrasting casting choices as these.

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