Sunday, July 19, 2015

Change a rhythm, look again

   It's mathematical: 
   change a rhythm, im-
   mediately you have 
   an emotion.

  Delon surprised me, last evening,
  as I studied him in Plein soleil,
  René Clément's 1960 adaptation of
  Highsmith's Ripley story. This is
  an entertainment in the moral way
  Graham Greene used the term, on a
  resourcefully adroit projection of
  character to suit a change in cir-
  cumstance. Delon carries it all by
  mastery of his character's default
  persona, an ambitious cad, angling
  even more knowingly than Clift in
  A Place in the Sun, for entitlement
  to the best. I had respected Delon
  in movies for Visconti (Il Gatto-
  pardo) and for Melville (Samouraï),
  directors who "handled" him elo-
  quently. Now, on seeing Clément do
  the same, I gained considerable re-
  gard for Delon's capacity to change
  a rhythm on a dime, as the script
  requires him to do, but without the
  frisson that Rossellini so shrewdly
  foretold. We must ask, why not? We
  had been warned, is all.

  Plein Soleil/Purple Noon is a genre
  tale of high cool, photographed a-
  mazingly well by Henri Decaë, who
  had just shot The 400 Blows with
  François Truffaut, in the previous
  year, and here had, apart from the
  night sky of Naples and the Excelsi-
  or in Rome, the hunger for roast
  chicken to conserve. There are mer-
  rily stylish narrative tropes and
  directorial touches throughout - a
  dancing hand of a dead man in thin
  air, prefiguring that of another,
  later on - including the insight 
  of using the screen to embrace its
  hero's narcissism, becoming both
  witness and player, a mirror shat-
  tered by arhythmic changes in ex-
  pression, shards of mania and fear
  in unbalanced alternation, one ex-
  pressive countenance hauling the
  narrative's descent, down to the
  improvised, post-mortem cigarette.

  Supposing Alain Delon had been an
  actor assessed for his looks, we'd
  have deceived ourselves without Vis-
  conti, Melville, and Clément. Who
  directs whom, in such partnership?
  Among the livelier of this movie's
  lingering sparks of craftsmanship,
  this one is the slowest to go out.

  And Alain became Ripley more and
  more, following everything that
  was said to him to the letter.
  He had an exceptional ability to
  concentrate, a surprisingly fine
  ear .. Faced with the truth I was
  was seeking, I always had Delon, 
  ready to take on every impossibil-
  ity of the action, for it is im-
  possibility that makes the drama
  move forward, of course.

René Clément to
  L'avant-scène, 1981©

René Clément
Plein soleil
  Purple Noon
Patricia Highsmith
René Clément and
  Paul Gégauff 
Henri Decaë
  director of photography
Nino Rota
Paris Film Production, 1960
Criterion Collection, 2012©

i, ii       Alternate Mercedes
iii - v    Alain Delon
               Plein soleil 

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