Thursday, February 28, 2013

Blu-ray Review: Purple Noon - The Criterion Collection

The Film
René Clément's Purple Noon is a film filled with immediate, textural pleasures, from its sun-drenched Mediterranean locations to the carnal allure of its leading man, Alain Delon in his breakout role. This is the kind of movie you can luxuriate in, allowing its images to transport you elsewhere for two hours. In that way, the film represents pure escapism, but it's hardly mindless entertainment; the film's ability to get you to identify with a full-fledged sociopath is actually quite insidious. Purple Noon isn't necessarily a cynical, audience-implicating attack, but its poison heart hiding beneath a gorgeous exterior certainly makes for a first-rate thriller.

Based on Patricia Highsmith's novel The Talented Mr. Ripley, the film stars Delon as Tom Ripley, an American charged with retrieving wealthy playboy Philippe Greenleaf (Maurice Ronet) from his Mediterranean vacation on daddy's dime. But Tom gets swept up in the lavish lifestyle, enjoying luxury yachts and opulent hotels, and he becomes a permanent third wheel to Philippe and fiancée Marge (Marie Laforêt), a would-be academic whose ambitions Philippe doesn't take seriously.

Tom, who displays a clear knack for forgery and mimicry, possesses an increasingly jealous eye, leading to a plan that involves murder, identity theft and all manner of deception. Delon makes for an irresistible villain because his descent into evil is so casual and gradual. This is not a character with a master plan; he improvises and makes it up as he goes along, and he does so with a kind of wide-eyed innocence. There's just a hint of desperation behind his eyes, jostling for position with his placidly cool exterior, and it's nearly impossible not to be charmed.

The Blu-ray Disc
Purple Noon is granted a 1080p high definition transfer in its original 1.66:1 aspect ratio. This is one of the most gorgeous color Blu-rays I've seen in a while, with Henri Decaë's deeply saturated, completely stunning photography looking just perfect. The transfer is exceptionally film-like, retaining a prominent but not distracting grain structure and offering a crisp image with fantastic levels of detail. The colors here, especially the blues, are so vibrant and stunning, you just want to step into the world of the film and never leave. The uncompressed monaural soundtrack is nicely clean, with no obvious issues.

Special Features
Scholar Denitza Bantcheva is featured in a new interview that discusses the scope of Clément's career, while archival interviews with Delon and Highsmith delve a little more into Purple Noon itself. The film's American theatrical trailer is also included. The package's booklet features an essay by Geoffrey O'Brien along with a reprinted interview with Clément.

The Bottom Line
The sheer beauty of the high-def image here is enough of a basis on which to recommend the disc; it certainly doesn't hurt that the film is as alluring as it ought to be, given its subject matter and star.

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