Plein Soleil is a tense and gorgeously shot adaptation of Patricia Highsmith’s famous novel

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Patricia Highsmith’s compelling and disturbing psychological thriller The Talented Mr. Ripley was famously made into a lavish, handsomely produced film by Anthony Minghella in 1999. However, many British audiences may not be aware that its first adaptation was an equally glamorous French film titled Plein Soleil (Purple Noon) released in 1960. This version has been given a brand new restoration and is released on Blu-ray in September by StudioCanal.

Alain Delon plays Tom Ripley, a young man with very little money to his name. He is charismatic and charming and knows how to manipulate people. At the start of the film he is in Rome spending time with his attractive friend Philippe Greenleaf. Tom has been commissioned by Philippe’s father to bring his son back home, but the two young men never really go back home. They spend time in the sun, on Philippe’s boat with Marge, his beautiful partner, and enjoy their lives.

Things start to spiral out of control when a prank during a sailing trip goes horribly wrong, leading a nightmarish situation that forces Tom to commit a series of crimes.

To some extent René Clément’s film is a little more obvious than Minghella’s English-language alternative. It’s easier to work out what direction the plot is going in and certain aspects of the story have been slimmed down in order the streamline the latter-half of the narrative. But the tension remains high throughout and Delon’s performance successfully captures the strangeness of Highsmith’s anti-hero.

Plein Soleil BDIn terms of this new release, StudioCanal’s transfer of the film is a bit puzzling. Sometimes it looks very good (especially some of the scenes shot outside on the boat) but occasionally the whole thing feels very flat and bland. The transfer was apparently scanned in at a 4K resolution, and should be of the highest quality. However, if anyone has seen Criterion’s Blu-ray release of the film in the US, which was created using a 2K master, they’ll know it’s not always so simple. Though it uses a transfer of lower resolution, Criterion’s release of the film provides a depth and pleasing grain pattern that is oddly absent from this UK release. However, those without multi-region players only have this release as an option, and for the majority Plein Soleil will look sparkly and sundrenched enough to enjoy. It may not be the best the film has looked, but it’s far from a failure and on a big TV often looks very impressive. It’s certainly worth adding to one’s world cinema collection.

Film: ★★★★☆  Blu-ray: ★★★☆☆

Plein Soleil (1960), directed by René Clément, is currently showing in selected cinemas, Certificate 15. The Blu-ray disc is released in the UK on September 16. Watch the trailer below. 

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Second year BA Film & English Student. Watches too many films and enjoys good novels.

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