WORLD CINEMA: Purple Noon (1960)

We’re back in France (and Italy)! This time, with the first film adaptation of Patricia Highsmith’s novel The Talented Mr Ripley, Plein Soleil or Purple Noon (1960, dir. René Clément). You know the story: Tom Ripley (Alain Delon) is sent to Italy to get Philippe Greenleaf (Maurice Ronet) to come back to America to take over his family’s business. Instead, the two of them, along with Philippe’s girlfriend Marge (Marie Laforêt), enjoy an idyllic summer, drinking and partying, until one morning when Tom kills Philippe on his yacht in an attempt to steal his identity. What follows is an increasingly tense game of cat-and-mouse as Ripley continues to act out his plan…

The role that propelled him to stardom, Alain Delon, twenty-five years old and obscenely, almost offensively good-looking, is Tom Ripley at his most deliciously conniving. A classic example of a villain we root for, sort of, maybe, Tom Ripley is charming, smug, smart and heartless and he uses all of that to his advantage. And, in one of my favorite tropes in cinema, his crimes are set against the backdrop of a gorgeous place to further contextualize their horribleness. Such crimes are, of course, nearly impossible to pull off in this day and age, which makes them even more fascinating when played out in a film from 1960 (or even 1999) and it’s almost a privilege to watch his mind at work as he gradually descends into something we’re not sure he’s going to get out of… The screenplay written by Clément himself and Paul Gégauff conveys this beautifully and the climax is equally rewarding – in fact, they won the Edgar for Best Foreign Film Screenplay in 1962 for their work on the film.

With a score by Nino Rota resembling, yes, the one from The Godfather, Purple Noon’s dream-like essence is intoxicating as we fall under Tom Ripley’s spell on that lovely Mediterranean coastline. *sigh* a French film set in Italy… my heart can’t take such perfection!

Hidden Classics Blogathon – Bad Day at Black Rock (1955)

The Spring Blogathon at the Classic Movie Blog Association is here and this year, our lovely hosts decided to go with Hidden Classics – movies not everybody has seen, but everybody should! And because I’m currently writing a Western feature screenplay, I’ve been binging a few of them lately and one of my very favorites is Bad Day at Black Rock (1955, dir. John Sturges), one of those psychological thriller Westerns that never go out of style.

In it, Spencer Tracy plays John J. Macreedy, a one-armed man who arrives in a small, practically deserted town looking for a man named Komoko. Upon hearing this, the locals become hostile… They slowly but surely antagonize Macreedy in increasingly aggressive ways until the truth about what happened to Komoko comes out…

Boasting a cast including, *takes deep breath*, Ernest Borgnine, Walter Brennan, Robert Ryan, Dean Jagger, Anne Francis and Lee Marvin, among others, everyone plays off each other extremely well, each character more vicious than the other in what is essentially a hodgepodge of mystery, intrigue, action and tension. So much tension. Right from the beginning, as the train carrying Macreedy comes into town, we understand that something is off. As it turns out, this is the first time the train has stopped in this town in four years… This wonderful bit of foreshadowing is only the start of Macreedy’s problems in Black Rock and as we slowly uncover the truth, the film takes a turn and becomes an allegory with its sad message piercing through our hearts and minds. This, not unlike High Noon (1952, dir. Fred Zinnemann), is a Western with a conscience, and Tracy’s Oscar-nominated performance is one of cinema’s finest interpretations of the now iconic trope of the Western man standing alone and fighting for what he believes in. An often overlooked gem that gets better every time you watch it.

Katharine Hepburn on The Dick Cavett Show, October 1973

I’m not saying Katharine Hepburn’s once in a lifetime appearance on The Dick Cavett Show is one of my favorite things that’s ever happened in pop culture history, but… yeah, it is. From re-arranging the furniture, because duh, to deciding to go ahead right then and there after showing up for a quick test with Cavett, to, of course, displaying her Katharine Hepburn awesomeness for everyone to see, this whole thing is a sight to behold. And we got two nights out of it! So, I wish you a happy Kate Day and I hope you check it out on YouTube, if you haven’t already!