Frequently, filmmakers talk about getting away with it, about those serendipities when they are able to make the movie they want to, despite the enormous pressures put on them by their producers, distributors, and audiences. No wonder, then, that so many of themfrom Hitchcock and Melville to Wenders, Cavani, and Malkovichare attracted to the writing of Patricia Highsmith, whose greatest character, Tom Ripley, gets away with far more, far more often, than even the most delusional auteur.
In this tightly focused series we look at two versions of two of Highsmiths Ripley novels. Each initial film Purple Noon or The American Friend is less adaptation than reckoning: what is at stake in our fascination with the suave murderer? And each follow-up film The Talented Mr. Ripley or Ripleys Game is less remake than restoration: can we push our sympathies even further? What might we lose?
Reckoning and restoration may evoke moral problems of suasion and imposture, but these moral problems are realized only through especially fine specifics: beautiful boats, pieces of wood becoming frames, colonnades in fading lakeshore light, and performances that suggest that we should all know what close cousins decency and horror really are.
Introduction by J. D. Connor
April 9 (Saturday) 7 pm (Free Screening)
Directed by Liliana Cavani
US/UK/Italy, 2002, color, 110 min.
With With John Malkovich, Ray Winstone, Uwe Mansshardt
English, German, and Italian with English subtitles
Based on the third installment in Patricia Highsmiths Tom Ripley series, Ripleys Game is set twenty years after The Talented Mr. Ripley and finds the title character with greater wealth and sophistication. Played with erudition and detached charisma by John Malkovich, Ripley is asked by an associate to relieve the pressure being exerted on him by competing mafia groups. Exhibiting his voracious appetite for devious games, Ripley cons a terminally ill man who insults him at a party to commit the requisite murder. The film hinges on the performance of Malkovich and takes joy in its flaunting of conventional morality.
April 9 (Saturday)9 pm
Directed by Wim Wenders
West Germany, 1977, color, 123 min.
With With Bruno Ganz, Dennis Hopper, Lisa Kreuzer
German and English with English subtitles
International intrigue, art and homicide, film and contemporary culture form the matrix of themes that underpin Wenders's brilliant quasi-thriller, loosely adapted from Highsmith's novel Ripley's Game. A terminally ill picture framer in Hamburg (Ganz) reluctantly agrees to become a hit man to insure the future of his soon-to-be widow (Kreuzer). Duplicity and ambiguity reign as he crosses paths with double-crossing killers (including filmmaker Sam Fuller) and shady American art dealer Tom Ripley, played by Dennis Hopper in cowboy gear.
April 10 (Sunday) 7 pm
Directed by René Clément
France, 1962, color, 119 min.
With With Alain Delon, Maurice Ronet, Marie Laforêt
French with English subtitles
Based on Highsmiths novel The Talented Mr. Ripley, René Cléments stylish 1960 adaptation stars Alain Delon as the pathological chameleon who ingratiates himself into the lives of the rich and idle. Delons Ripley is both delightfully hedonistic and sublimely creepy as he plots to murder and assume the identity of an American industrialists son. Set against the sun- and color-drenched shades of the Italian Riviera, this noirish thriller, superbly photographed by Henri Decaë, provides a tautly crafted critique of class and desire.
April 10 (Sunday) 9 pm
Directed by Anthony Minghella
US, 1999, color, min.
With With Matt Damon, Gwyneth Paltrow, Jude Law
Based on the Patricia Highsmith novel, and a remake of Rene Clements Purple Noon, Minghellas film is filled with beautiful imagery, although often at the cost of psychological complexity and depth. Tom Ripley (Matt Damon), a restroom attendant in Manhattan, befriends a wealthy man under false pretenses and, at the mans behest, travels to Italy to lure his son back home. After ingratiating himself into the sons life, Ripleys moral flexibility and skill at impersonation lead to an attempted usurpation of the mans identity. Damons Ripley is less threatening than Highsmiths, and the film exposes Ripleys homosexual desires more than the novel.