By Chaz Lipp
Article first published as Blu-ray Review: Purple Noon - The Criterion Collection on Blogcritics.
On the surface, the set-up is quite simple. Tom Ripley (Alain Delon)
has been tasked with persuading Philippe Greenleaf (Maurice Ronet) to
return to the United States. If he succeeds, Tom will be financially
compensated by Philippe’s father. Tom and Philippe are friends, but the
true nature of their friendship is somewhat of a mystery that unfolds
throughout the film’s first act. Not at all concerned about his father’s
wishes, Philippe lives a life of leisure with his girlfriend Marge
(Marie Laforêt). Clearly envious, Tom plots to take everything from
Philippe. He’s after far more than the senior Mr. Greenleaf’s payout.
The bigger prize can be had by literally replacing Philippe.
Further plot divulgences require a spoiler alert, so consider yourself warned. If you’ve already seen Minghella’s film, Noon
will give you serious déjà vu. Tom eliminates Philippe in an act of
shocking, sudden violence. From that point on, he attempts to cover his
tracks while absorbing the trappings of Philippe’s life. Complicating
matters significantly is Philippe’s friend Freddie Miles (Billy Kearns),
a variable that Tom hadn’t factored into his calculations. He’s also at
risk for slipping up in his forged correspondence (as Philippe) with
Marge, who is naturally worried about her boyfriend’s abrupt
None of this is to say that Purple Noon has been rendered
obsolete by the ’99 adaptation. At 115 minutes, it’s far tighter than
the later film’s somewhat bloated 139 minutes. As a pure suspense
thriller, Noon is preferable. But it’s clearly more concerned
with the nuts-and-bolts of how Tom will evade law enforcement and avoid
punishment for his crimes. The Minghella film is interested in the
motivations behind Tom’s actions. Almost by default, Noon ends up being the more ambiguous of the two films, simply because it doesn’t evoke the mixture of empathy and revulsion that Mr. Ripley aims for.
expect a fully-loaded special edition, but there are some useful extras
included. The centerpiece is a brand new interview with Denitza
Bantcheva, a René Clément expert. It’s just under a half-hour and covers
various aspects of Clément’s career, with a focus on Noon. The most interesting piece is a vintage 20-minute interview with Ripley
novelist Patricia Highsmith. We get some interesting insight into the
conception of her novels. There’s also a 10-minute vintage interview
with Alain Delon. The booklet includes some worthwhile reading, with an
essay about the film and a vintage interview with Clément.