Restored version of René Clément's classic Plein Soleil brings life back to the best Ripley tale – Plein Soleil DVD Review

Friday, August 23, 2013 Craig Grobler 0 Comments

Plein Soleil ReviewBy my count there have 5 interpretations of  Tom Ripley on screen. John Malkovich in Ripley's Game, Matt Damon in The Talented Mr. Ripley, Dennis Hopper in The American Friend, Barry Pepper in Ripley Under Ground and of course - still - the greatest Ripley of them all - Alain Delon in Plein Soleil.

There is definitely something to be said for Patricia Highsmith's literary character Tom Ripley, a character that has fascinated the public enough to give birth to 5 successful novels, attracted the immense talent mentioned above, as well as top tier Directors like; Wim Wenders, Anthony Minghella, Liliana Cavani, Roger Spottiswoode and of course René Clément for the original cinematic adaptation of Patricia Highsmith's The Talented Mr. Ripley his 1960 Plein Soleil. Thankfully Studiocanal have restored this classic to its original condition and are re-releasing it into both 4K & 2K cinemas as well as Blu-ray and DVD.

Alain Delon as Tom Ripley drinking the the best under the blazing sun in Plein Soleil
 Alain Delon as Tom Ripley drinking the the best under the blazing sun in Plein Soleil - From Plein Soleil
René Clément's Plein Soleil Review

a beautiful restoration brings back elegance & pizazz to this timeless classic
The name name Alain Delon is synonymous with the iconography of ultra cool shadowy figures of World cinema - but Plein Soleil was the film that introduced Alain Delon to the public, well not entirely, as he had already made a couple of films and was well on his way to be a matinee idol heartthrob but then he got aboard Master Director René Clément's adaptation of The Talented Mr Ripley. 
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Originally cast as  playboy Philippe Greenleaf, a turn of events opened the door for Delon to slide into the slip ons of Tom Ripley and Clement's Plein Soleil re-introduced Alain Delon to the public as a cinematic presence that has cast a giant shadow in the world of film ever since. Delon's career defining performance also kicked off a successful ongoing collaboration between René Clément and Alain Delon who worked on three more films afterwards. - Is Paris Burning?, The Love Cage and Che gioia vivere.

Maurice Ronet & Alain Delon in plein Soleil
Maurice Ronet & Alain Delon (Click to enlarge) - From Plein Soleil

Alain Delon & Marie Laforet in Plein Soleil
  Alain Delon & Marie Laforet (Click to enlarge) - From Plein Soleil
It's hard to watch Plein Soleil with fresh eyes as the stories of Ripley and their interpretations have become so ingrained into our cultural consciousness - but seeing Plein Soleil for the first time I was completely swayed by its elegance, René Clément's gorgeous composition of key scenes (his architectural background coming to the fore), Clément's subtle symbolism – look out for the scales in the fish market scene, Henri Decaë's (The 400 Blows, Lift to the Scaffold, Bob le Flambeur) beautiful cinematography, the use of incredible locations mainly around Naples and Rome - making the film seem like a travelogue of Italy - and of course Alain Delon as Tom Ripley who performs the role with boyish charm and effortless cool making Ripley play somewhere between a male model and a prototype Hannibal Lecter.

Pre-New Wave French film noir thriller directed by René Clément, based on the novel 'The Talented Mr Ripley' by Patricia Highsmith and shot on the warm and glowing Mediterranean coast. Alain Delon stars in his debut leading role as Tom Ripley, a young American who is paid by the wealthy Greenleaf family to travel to Europe to persuade his friend, errant playboy Philip Greenleaf (Maurice Ronet), to return to the family home in San Francisco. 

Alain Delon as Tom Ripley in the fish market Plein Soleil
Alain Delon as Tom Ripley in the fish market (Click to enlarge) -  From Plein Soleil

Alain Delon as Tom Ripley In Plein Soleil
“René's my master. He taught me everything. René was the greatest director I've ever known, the greatest cinematographer, the greatest cameraman and the greatest director of actors.”

- Alain Delon on working with René Clément

All the more cogent when you consider that Delon has worked with masters of cinema like; Michelangelo Antonioni, Luchino Visconti, Jean-Pierre Melville Jean-Luc Godard, Louis Malle and Josef Losey.
Alain Delon as Tom Ripley (Click to enlarge) - From Plein Soleil

Video: PLEIN SOLEIL - UK Trailer

When he gets there, Tom discovers that Philip has it all - including a beautiful fiancée, Marge (Marie Laforet) - and begins to covet his luxurious lifestyle. Philip, initially amused by Tom's arrival, soon tires of him, and as Tom begins to find himself excluded from Philip's coterie, his envy takes a murderous turn. Highsmith's novel was later adapted by Hollywood as 'The Talented Mr Ripley' (1999) starring Matt Damon, Jude Law and Gwyneth Paltrow.

 Alain Delon's Tom Ripley in the blazing Sun
  Ripley in the blazing Sun (Click to enlarge) - From Plein Soleil

In more recent adaptations and to please modern audiences Tom Ripley has been more acutely explored so that we can understand him, giving him depth and vulnerability and whilst we may never know for sure if Delon's Ripley always had a malevolent plan in mind or a cruel act under the blazing sun pushed him into becoming a willing victim to cruelty and circumstance - Alain Delon's Ripley shifts almost seamlessly from likeable childlike friend to calculating criminal whilst maintaining his smile.

Alluding to something primal lurking under Ripley's cool facade - this is reinforced by Ripley hungrily tucking in, after each of his misdeeds, starting by taking a bite from the forbidden fruit. He is both naïve greedy child and  heinously evil as the tide starts to rise on Ripley.

Studiocanal's restoration of Plein Soleil highlights another star of the film -  the style and the look of Plein Soleil and the restoration has brought the colours of the Mediterranean and elegant style of the ime, gorgeously filmed by Henri Decaë, back to life in glorious high definition colour. I cannot think of another film that uses style and colour to such effect making the dreamlike lifestyle of Philippe Greenleaf all the more desirable and fuelling Ripley's dark side.

Alain Delon as Tom Ripley In Plein Soleil
Alain Delon as Tom Ripley In Plein Soleil (CTE) - From Plein Soleil
As well as the visuals Nino Rota's (La Dolce VitaThe LeopardThe Godfather) timeless score also benefits from being digitally remastered by L’Immagine Ritrovata Laboratories as it shifts between aspirationally upbeat to unsettlingly dark as the moods of Plein Soleil turn.

Extras on the DVD include:

- Interview with Alain Delon
The interview with Alain Delon is fascinating as he discusses anecdotal background of making Plein Soleil as well as working with René Clément. I have to say, in a time that youth and longevity have become an obsession it is refreshing to see Alain Delon the icon, ageing gracefully - there is no hint of plastic surgery and seems completely unaffected by his stardom. He is infinitely more captivating and credible than many stars of today.

- René Clément at the heart of the New Wave
This was a bit of an eye opener as I was unaware of the effect or impact that the French New Wave had on the established masters of film. In this hour and 10 minute documentary, which is too much to take in, in one viewing cast, crew, experts and René Clément via voice-over discuss the making of Plein Soleil. Breaking down key scenes with background information as well broader filmmaking knowledge of the time.

- Plein Soleil the restoration
A non narrative look at some key scenes before and after their restoration.

Plein Soleil will be in cinemas from 30 August 2013 and on DVD & BD from 16 September 2013

Based on the novel by crime scribe Patricia Highsmith who also wrote 'Strangers On A Train', René Clément's striking study from 1960 of a glamorous and complex psychopath features a career-defining turn from a young, beautiful and ultra-cool Alain Delon.

Directed by: René Clément
Written by: Patricia Highsmith, René Clément, Paul Gégauff
Starring: Alain Delon, Maurice Ronet, Marie Laforêt

Released back in cinemas uncut and beautifully restored following a Cannes Classics premiere on 30th August 2013

On DVD and BD 16th September 2013

Cover of Plein Soleil DVD
“I was to film [Che gioia vivere] with Barbara Lass a Polish actress...her boyfriend came with her to Rome for the shooting of the film...He spent his time behind the camera, behind Clement and the cameraman watching what René Clément was doing. He followed the whole film...standing behind René... That's what he came for - we just thought he was her boyfriend.

His name was Roman Polanski. His Master was René Clément but no one knows.”

- Alain Delon on working with René Clément
Cover of Plein Soleil DVD (Click to enlarge) - From Plein Soleil

Plein Soleil Slideshow


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Craig's is a retired superhero, an obsessive hobbyist, comics fan, gadget lover & flâneur who knows an unhealthy amount about Ian Fleming's James Bond.

When not watching or making films he takes pictures, eats, drinks, dives, tries to connect to nature whilst mentally storyboarding the greatest film ever made. He also  & sometimes utilises owl-themed gadgets to fight crime. 

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