Wednesday, 23 October 2013

Champagne and La Plein Soleil

On Friday, I took one of my girls to a screening of the 1960 French film, La Plein Soleil (directed by René Clément) at the Working Title premises near Bond Street. I'd acquired the tickets through an Emerald Street promotion, which I signed up to and promptly forgot about.


To be honest, I haven't watched a foreign language film since school aside from the obvious Amelie and the odd few obligatory Alfonso Cuarón titles at Uni when lustful Spaniards and the beauty of Gael Garcia Bernal managed to persuade me to stray - albeit fleetingly- from my diet of chick flicks, Harry Potter and anything with Joaquin Phoenix in it. 

In art, literature and even television I like to think of myself as quite cultural, but for some reason when it comes to films, I seem to sit quite happily in the comfort food sort of arena, period dramas and happy endings. Not particularly used to applying my shaky French, whilst trying to read at the same time.

La Plein Soleil had piqued my interest due to it being the original adaptation of The Talented Mr Ripley - a film which I enjoyed, largely due to the impressive acting skills of the entire cast but specifically Matt Damon who proved his great versatility as an actor. 

I must admit too that there was free champagne on offer and free wine and free nibbles and after weekends of hitting it too hard, a nice Friday with a French film and free champagne seemed quite the pleasant option. Of course what ended up happening was that I was late out of work and my friend went shopping and we managed to miss most of the free stuff, helper-skeltering in at the last moment....

"Aha yes.. You two are the last to arrive" said the lady on the door on hearing our names "you have five minutes to get a glass of something.."

Of course five minutes didn't slow my thirst and I managed to very un-surreptitiously slug my two glasses before they called us in to the screening room.

And the film.. What do I have to say of that? It has taken a significant amount of paragraphs of my languid, self-obsessed scene-setting to reach even a hint of the film. Shock me. Well firstly the actor, Alain Delon, who played the lead role of Tom Ripley is dreadfully good looking, in the way only the French can be - all arrogant blue eyes and pouting. Apparently it was his first major film role, remind me to look at more of his work... 

Secondly, the scenery is absolutely stunning. Set in all the beautiful parts of Italy and swathed in the scratch sixties film roll, it all looks impossibly picturesque and glamorous. The actors playing Marge and Phillippe (Marie Laforêt and Maurice Foret) are just as attractive and beautifully dressed as you would expect them to be and they play the parts well, though one can't see why Marge adores and Tom obsesses over Phillippe so much as we can with Jude Law in the Minghella-directed modern adaptation. 

The plot is much slower and to be honest not as gripping, the defection away from the original book by Patricia Highsmith, which clearly depicts Tom having a homosexual obsession with his friend threw me a little. In Plein Soleil, a non-homosexual Tom seduces Marge after killing Phillippe in order to totally take over Phillippe's life. I just prefer the original story and believe it fits better with Marge and Phillippe's ridicule of Tom.

However, Alain Delon is a wonderful actor, depicting his version of the cold character of Tom Ripley with a casual nuance. He radiates an easy arrogance and a calculated body language that depicts Tom's lack of morality perfectly. He is so unbelievably sexy that you wouldn't question Marge jumping into bed with him so swiftly. 

The ending of the film is deliciously French with a hint that Tom is about to be caught and committed for murder as the police descend on a beachside bar that he lays sunning himself in. However, the audience never knows, as the credits role just prior to this scene, leaving us with the feeling that just maybe he escaped.

Overall, I liked the film and I enormously respect Delon, but I still prefer the Minghella directed Hollywood version. So populist, I know....

Buy the DVD on Amazon: Plein Soleil Special Edition *Digitally Restored [DVD] 

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