In Review: Plein Soleil (1960) Special Edition on DVD

by Maryann O'Connor on 12/09/2013

plein soleil

It’s a regular boy-meets-ill-adjusted-member-of-society situation. Poor man (Alain Delon) befriends layabout heir (Maurice Ronet) in luxurious Italian boat holiday setting on the pretence of getting him back home to his disapproving dad but in reality the befriender is a bit of a psychopath; one with a liking for stripy blazers and murderous skulduggery.

If the synopsis of this film seems more than a little familiar, that’ll be cos you’ve seen Maaaaatt Daaaaaamon playing the role of the lead in the Anthony Minghella scripted and directed version of Patricia Highsmith’s novel, The Talented Mr Ripley (1999). Jude Law was in that film too.

Plein Soleil came first, though and now has been polished up and restored to better than its original Lapis Lazuli-tinted grandness for close examination by fans of Director René Clément and French cinema.

Having seen the Minghella version first, I can’t help but draw unfavourable comparisons between that and Plein Soleil. It seems fair to start with Plein Soleil’s good points, namely some ambitious boat action scene filming and excellent display of the style and fashions of the time, but these are far outweighed by the negative aspects. There isn’t much in the way of development of intrigue and although Ripley (Delon) is very much portrayed as a psychopath, you would expect to see some sort of conflict or sliver of motive behind his actions. You can almost hear Delon whistling cheerfully under his breath as he blandly goes about his machinations.

Perhaps The Talented Mr Ripley goes too far in its dissection of Tom Ripley’s feelings but Plein Soleil fails to even scratch the surface. The performances are ok and the restoration is lovely to look at but this edition of Plein Soleil seems to be very much a niche purchase/cinema viewing.

Extras : Herein lies the clues pointing to this edition being for fans of Director René Clément. The first item is an interview with Alain Delon (Tom Ripley) waxing lyrical about how great the late director was and how he himself was not an actor before being cast in Plein Soleil. There are also some interesting film gossip tidbits if you can manage to stay awake throughout the interview. The second item is directly about René Clément and his contribution to and rejection from the ‘New Wave’ of French cinema. The third item, my favourite, is an arty display and comparison of footage quality before and after restoration.

Maryann has awarded Plein Soleil (1960) Special Edition on DVD two Torches of Truth



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