Thursday 7 January 2010

Ripley's Flicks

As regular readers (and as ever, we ask ourselves, are there any such individuals?) might have realised, I'm slightly obsessed with Patricia Highsmith's Ripley novels. But having read all five, there's not really anywhere else to go with this obsession... apart from to the pictures! Well, the telly/DVD player, anyway. For Tom Ripley has quite the cinematic rap sheet...

There is, of course, Anthony Minghella's perfectly-cast The Talented Mr. Ripley (I often fervently wish Matt Damon would use his Hollywood muscle to get the sequels made too; he'd be great as the older Ripley in period adaptations), and there's also the John Malkovich-starring Ripley's Game, both of which I've seen (Malkovich is great as Ripley in the latter, if a little balder than one might normally picture Tom).

But there's more besides. There's Wim Wenders' The American Friend, an earlier adaptation of Ripley's Game, with Dennis Hopper as Tom (I haven't seen it, but Patricia Highsmith herself wasn't a fan of Hopper-as-Ripley); there's the Alain Delon-starring Plein soleil, an earlier crack at Talented (Highsmith approved of Delon, but again, I ain't seen it)... And then there's the rather lesser known movie version of Ripley Under Ground. Directed by Roger Spottiswoode (Tomorrow Never Dies, er, Turner & Hooch... er... Stop! Or My Mom Will Shoot... fuck me) this came out, apparently, in 2005, but seems to have vanished straight away, and isn't on DVD in the UK or the US. But it did get a DVD release in Europe, and I've just nabbed a Polish copy on eBay. I'm intrigued to see it: the director doesn't exactly inspire confidence, but it does star Willem Dafoe, Alan Cumming, Tom Wilkinson, and Barry Pepper (um... Battlefield Earth... fuck me again) as Tom. That's a pretty good cast.

It was also co-scripted by William Blake Herron. Who, you may ask? No, me either, but apparently he co-wrote The Bourne Identity with Tony Gilroy – of (the rather brilliant) Michael Clayton fame – which isn't a bad pedigree. But it's the other co-writer who grabbed my attention: Donald E. Westlake, a.k.a. Richard Stark, who wrote all the Parker novels (I think I raved about the Darwyn Cooke graphic novel adaptation of the first Parker novel, The Hunter – a.k.a. Point Blank, made into an ace movie starring Lee Marvin – in another post). Blimey. I guess we'll see what the film's like when the DVD turns up. Unless, of course, it's all in Polish...

1 comment:

  1. Minghella's movie wasn't perfectly-cast to me. It always drove me crazy that Jude Law was cast as Dickie instead of Tom. But I had less of a problem with that and more of a problem with the movie dumbing down Tom by turning him into just another generic queer serial killer, and by trying to "humanize" a character who's fascinating in the books because of his lack of conscience.

    Malkovich looks nothing like Ripley (really, it's like casting him as James Bond or something) but his performance is terrific. It's a shame the movie was dumped onto video. Puzzling, too: it's not like it's a bizarre art film or anything. It wouldn't make a lot of money in theatres, but it's certainly not unmarketable.

    If you have a Netflix account, put Purple Noon and The American Friend on your queue. Purple Noon is easily the best Ripley film. It suffers from an ending that's something of a cop-out, but Alain Delon's Ripley makes up for any imperfections. He's perfect, both in looks and performance, and I can't read the books anymore without picturing him. He's to Ripley what Connery is to Bond.

    The American Friend is also a very good movie. Dennis Hopper's Ripley isn't quite the same as Highsmith's, but I don't agree with anyone who says he's nothing like the character in the books. It's irrelevant, anyway, since the movie puts the focus more on Jonathan than Ripley, and Bruno Ganz is terrific in the role. This movie also uses elements of Ripley Under Ground, though they never bought the rights to that book and didn't put its name in the credits.

    I'm surprised that the Barry Pepper movie dropped off the radar so serverely. At least Ripley's Game got a video release. Who the hell is marketing these movies? Anyway, I read your review of this movie in the other post, and I'm sad to hear they made it a stand-alone film without making any reference to Tom's past. The American Friend and Ripley's Game were made as stand-alone films, but they at least made references to the effect.

    Oh, and this comment should probably be going on the "Ripley Collection" post, but I'm in love with those Boy Who Followed Ripley and Ripley Under Water covers. Check out this blog entry for some other nice Ripley covers. (I also love the Boy cover there.)