RARA-AVIS: Ripley, the film

Bill Hagen (billha@ionet.net)
Sat, 25 Dec 1999 22:08:26 -0600 (CST)

"The Talented Mr. Ripley" opened in the US today, and I'm sure we'll have some fun with it. Missed (lost) the earlier Ripley discussion, so I apologiize if I seem to be repeating.

The film has high "production values," in terms of the stars, locations, and cinematography. Excellent use of frame, color tones (almost too deliberate), and selective focusing. [Though the projector lens for my viewing was not quite set right.] I thought the acting was quite competent, even to Matt Damon's Ripley, given the script he had to work with. Although we are not given Highsmith's Ripley, we are given a dark, conflicted character in what will strike many viewers as a slow moving [by current standards] crime story. About eight people walked out after the first half hour, and I didn't sense any particular excitement in the crowd as they filed out afterwards. I can see why it got Golden Globe nominations; it will probably get some Oscar nominations too. But I'll be surprised if it ignites much response from the general public.

As a Patricia Highsmith fan, I WISH the writer/director had tried to match her achievement: to present a moral monster as a likeable main character. The man without a conscience who keeps us on edge as to what he will do or how he will get away with it. It would've probably called for different casting, and probably a toned down production, but it would have been interesting to try. I suspect Highsmith's Ripley caused great unease, since he isn't a familiar types and lacks adequate motivation, in Hollywood psychological terms. So the film's Ripley had to be conflicted, a person who absolutely needs the people he latches onto, who is really pushed into his first murder, a latent homosexual who comes out after he discovers he is able to murder, a wholesome-looking kid who has enough conscience to have bad dreams and guilt pangs after his crimes. One feels sorry for Damon's Ripley (as black fills the last frame of the film) in a way I don't remember feeling sorry for Highsmith's Ripley in the novel. The poor boy in the film needs to be put away for his own good, as much as anything. I don't see him coming back in a second film.

But perhaps it would've taken someone with the sensibility and clout of a Hitchcock to perserve Highsmith's Ripley in a major feature.

What do other first-time viewers have to say?

Bill Hagen

# To unsubscribe, say "unsubscribe rara-avis" to # To unsubscribe, say "unsubscribe rara-avis" to majordomo@icomm.ca.
# The web pages for the list are at http://www.miskatonic.org/rara-avis/ .

This archive was generated by hypermail 2.0b3 on Sat 25 Dec 1999 - 23:08:52 EST