Monday, October 8, 2012

The Talented Mr. Ripley: A Novel by Patricia Highsmith

    Sometimes you watch a film and get that feeling that somehow it has crawled under your skin and you cannot quite shake it. The erotique psychological mystery thriller The Talented Mr. Ripley is one such movie.  It is a surprise for me to know that it's based on a novel in the 50's and that there was a movie starring Alain Delon as Tom Ripley in the 70's.

        The remake in 1999 became Matt Damon's first and only journey into the antihero character ( ah , I forgot the departed). For me, this is his best performance so far. He gave the hero antihero Ripley a reality that makes one cringe. Damon is one of those actors who have unassuming faces but can render the audience breathless in their performance.

         Patricia Highsmith who wrote the novel was already making a name for herself when her first novel Strangers on a Train was made into a movie by the incomparable Alfred Hitchcock.

         Highsmith had an "ambiguous sexuality" and she experimented in her plots as well as her relationships. The "stark prose" and theme of self exile in which she was well known made her a good example of a writer of existentialism.

           In the film, The Talented Mr. Ripley, Tom Ripley is a nondescript freeloader whose talent as piano player and ass kisser gave him a free ticket to Europe as a baby sitter for jet setter Dickie Greenleaf. But Ripley began having his own unbridled fantasy, to become Dickie Greenleaf.

          To what extent will he go to make this fantasy come true?
Patricia Highsmith circa 1941
Photo from  the Swiss Literary Archives

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