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Purple Noon: Criterion Collection (Blu-ray Review)

Purple Noon - www.whysoblu.comAlain Delon (The Leopard) was at his most impossibly beautiful when Purple Noon (Plein soleil) was released and made him an instant star. This ripe, colorful adaptation of Patricia Highsmith’s vicious novel The Talented Mr. Ripley, directed by the versatile René Clément (Forbidden Games), stars Delon as Tom Ripley, a duplicitous American charmer in Rome on a mission to bring his privileged, devil-may-care acquaintance Philippe Greenleaf (Elevator to the Gallows’ Maurice Ronet) back to the United States; what initially seems a carefree tale of friendship soon morphs into a thrilling saga of seduction, identity theft, and murder. Featuring gorgeous on-location photography in coastal Italy, Purple Noon is crafted with a light touch that allows it to be suspenseful and erotic at once, while giving Delon the role of a lifetime. 

Purple Noon - www.whysoblu.com

Film

Purple Noon is an adaptation of Patricia Highsmith’s “The Talented Mr. Ripley” novel. Alain Delon (Le Samourai, Le Cercle Rouge) stars as Tom Ripley, big game smooth talker who is in Italy hanging out with his rich friend Phillipe (Maurice Ronet). Tom wants to get Phillippe to go to San Francisco but Phillippe has other plans. These plans include picking up on random and beautiful women, buying a blind man’s cane, and sailing the Italian coast with his beautiful girlfriend, Marge (Marie Laforêt). 

This sits just fine with Tom since he’s in no real rush to actually get to San Francisco he might as well hang out with Phillippe, spend his money, and womanize side by side. I think that’s the ultra lure of Purple Noon. It starts out as a film about to close friends before it escalates into a tale of seduction and ultimately murder. None of the principals are what they seem and that goes for the title character of Tom Ripley.

I’m not at all familiar with The Talented Mr. Ripley that starred Matt Damon but am a huge fan of Ripley’s Game that starred John Malkovich playing Ripley as a middle aged man. Alain Delon takes the reigns as Tom Ripley in Purple Noon and is very subdued and almost innocent as to how he sees the world around him, which is the film’s charm. It’s an almost fish out of water scenario in Tom’s case. That’s the point, because he’s a bloody snake in the grass. In fact, there’s a couple snakes in the grass lurking about.

I’ve never read any of Patricia Highsmith’s novels but am now intrigued just from the information that I got from the Blu-ray’s special features, with regards to her material. She wrote crime novels at a time when men were the predominate ones writing that sort of fiction. She was a world traveler and lived in various countries around the world and also wrote comic books for a living. Yes, she was also one of the few women writing comics in a male dominated society. Maybe that’s why Purple Moon comes off as cynical in the way Tom Ripley sees the world around him. Tom Ripley is sort of Highsmith’s anti-hero but I may be jumping the gun since I’m not too familiar with her written works about him.

Purple Noon is a pretty great little thriller, with dashes of noir, subversiveness, and dashes of slow burn (early on), so take that as you will. It should be required viewing. It’s actually made me want to dig up some of Highsmith’s past works. I really like these characters.

Purple Noon - www.whysoblu.com

Video 

Purple Noon is presented in its original aspect ratio of 1.66:1. On standard 4:3 televisions, the image will appear letterboxed. On standard and widescreen televisions, black bars may also be visible on the left and right to maintain the proper screen format. This new digital transfer was created in 2K resolution on an ARRISCAN film scanner from the original camera negative; two original 35 mm prints made by LTC, Paris, were used for color reference. Thousands of instances of dirt, debris, scratches, splices, warps, jitter, and flicker were manually removed using MTI’s DRS and Pixel Farm’s PFClean, while Image Systems’ Phoenix was used for small dirt, grain, and noise reduction.

Those wizards at Criterion spared no expense in restoring Purple Moon its former glory. The film is about 53 years old and you’d think it was shot yesterday. Okay, it doesn’t look that new, but it does look pretty spectacular. It looks like a painting come to life. Shot on location in various parts of Europe, the vistas and locales look positively gorgeous. This is a testament to the care taken in sprucing up the print. Skin tones are nicely bronzed, without looking like they’re wearing spray-on tans and black levels are deep and never crush. Sharpness levels remain steady and never fluctuate. Color levels are nicely balance and I never picked up on instances of banding at all, which is a good thing, especially for a film like this. The color palette for Purple Moon is one of the major stars of the show. I think most will be pleased with Purple Moon’s presentation on Blu-ray.

Purple Noon - www.whysoblu.com

Audio 

The original monaural soundtrack was remastered at 24-bit from a 35 mm optical soundtrack print. Clicks, thumps, hiss, and hum were manually removed using Pro Tools HD. Crackle was attenuated using AudioCube’s integrated workstation.

Pruple Moon plays in 1 channel monaural and it’s more than adequate all things considered. All sounds have been localized to the center and are reproduced back out without any hints of echo, distortion, or static. Dialogue is clean, clear, and crisp and musical cues never interfere with what’s being said. It’s a nice audio track with lots of space and room to move. Purple Moon is two for two in the video/audio specs department.

Purple Noon - www.whysoblu.com

 Extras 

Purple Noon has a couple of really neat special features included on the Blu-ray. There’s a new interview with Rene Clement scholar and author Denitza Bantcheva and my personal favorite feature: and interview with Patricia Highsmith, in French. I did not know she spoke French. That one is neat, because she’s very vocal about how she writes and lives life. It was very cool to see that. An English-language trailer and booklet with 1981 excerpts by Rene Clement round out the Blu-ray package.

  • New interview with Rene Clement scholar and author Denitza Bantcheva
  • Archival interviews with actor Alain Delon and novelist Patricia Highsmith, on whose book The Talented Mr. Ripley the film is based
  • Original English-language trailer
  • A booklet featuring an essay by film critic Geoffrey O’Brien and excerpts from a 1981 interview with Clement

Purple Noon - www.whysoblu.com

Summary  

Equal parts slow burn and noir, Purple Noon shines in that the material is very taught and gripping for the time it was made. You also have to get through the first 30 minutes or so to really appreciate the wool being pulled right over your eyes, because in Purple Noon, everything is not what it seems. Criterion has done great in restoring Purple Noon to its past glory, so fans and non-fans in general may now experience the film as it was to be. Stellar specs and okay supplements make Purple Noon a no-brainer and a keeper.

 

 

 

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Purple Noon - Blu-ray - www.whysoblu.com

 

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Gerard Iribe is a writer/reviewer for Why So Blu?. He has also reviewed for other sites like DVD Talk, Project-Blu, and CHUD, but Why So Blu? is where the heart is. You can follow his incoherency on Twitter: @giribe

2 Responses to “Purple Noon: Criterion Collection (Blu-ray Review)”


  1. Brian White

    So if a movie is part of the Criterion collection, should it not be a perfect 5 film score? 😉

  2. Sean Ferguson

    Welcome back Gerard!