Right off the bat, there are two things that stick out about Purple Noon. First, you cannot help to notice the colors because the blues and reds pop like some vibrant 1960s painting. Then there’s Alain Delon who at the age of 23 made his rise to stardom, thanks to this film and Rocco and his Brothers (1960). As Tom Ripley, he finds a role that is fascinating in more ways than one.
During the first interludes of Rene Clement’s thriller, based on the Patricia Highsmith novel, I didn’t really know what I was watching or what to think. Tom was sent to Italy to bring the wealthy Phillipe Greenleaf back to San Francisco at the wishes of the man’s father who is paying Ripley. Their story begins as an entertaining jaunt through the city. They lounge at cafes, take carriage rides, and generally have fun living it up at night.
Tom is nothing like Greenleaf. He’s far poorer coming from a humbler background, but he is also much more resourceful and clever. When he takes a trip with the wealthy young man aboard his yacht, he finally hatches a plan to get what he wants. He abruptly stabs Greenleaf during a game of cards and the whole trajectory of the film changes in an instant. It began playfully absurd and quickly switches gears as a thriller involving murder, stolen identity, and deception.
He plays up the tiff between Greenleaf and his girlfriend Marge, telling her that he is still angry and so he went off somewhere else without her. Thus, begins Ripley’s transformation into Greenleaf, forging a passport and signatures until he can pass off as the man himself. He starts dressing differently, spending more money, and continually acting as if he actually is Greenleaf. But things get difficult when he nearly runs into folks he knows, and Marge is desperate to know where her love is. These all prove problematic and yet Ripley skirts most of these entanglements with relative ease. It’s when a friend of Greenleaf’s named Freddie Miles figures out his charade that things begin to escalate because Tom’s only option seems to be murder. He commits the act coolly and plans his next move with calculated ease.
The police are after a murder, but it looks as if Tom has tied up all the loose ends and we find him relaxing reclined on the beach. He doesn’t know that the game is up, because of what the police found at sea.
The visuals of this film definitely do justice to the young Delon who is strikingly handsome with piercing eyes, but his turn is interesting in its own right because he was always so adept at playing the coolest of characters. He’s no different here and Purple Noon proved to be the initial boost to his storied career.