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Plein Soleil Review

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Ripley (yes, the talented one) is sent by an American industrialist to save his son from a life of meaningless decadence.

★★★★

Though it hasn't passed into the canon of great French films, this is a striking movie, well before its time in its study of a glamorous and complex psychopath and with a career-making star turn from a young and amazingly beautiful Alain Delon. Based on a novel by Patricia Highsmith, it casts Delon, who often gets to take off his shirt and show off his taut tummy, as her continuing character, Tom Ripley — who would later be played by Dennis Hopper in The American Friend and Matt Damon in The Talented Mr. Ripley.

We come across Ripley in Rome, palling about irresponsibly with wealthy playboy Philip Greenleaf (Ronet), and watch as he worms his way deeper into Greenleaf's life, playfully practising his friend's signature and dressing up in his clothes, even kissing his own reflection in the mirror while imitating the man's voice. On a Mediterranean yacht trip with Greenleaf and his French girlfriend (Laforet), Ripley puts into action his blatantly-declared scheme to get Greenleaf's life, girl and money. However, as usual, one murder is never enough, and Ripley has to continue his amoral criminality if he is to have a chance of getting away with it.

It's a sunstruck thriller which takes its time, allowing Delon to tease the audience as well as his victim. There are a few Hitchcockian sequences, notably when Delon has to get a hefty corpse downstairs and into a car with very convincing and painful effort, but the film is more concerned with presenting Delon as a neurotic pin-up than digging deep into its characters.

The film's cobra-like fascination lags once it gets ashore, but it's still a minor classic.

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