Title: The Talented Mr. Ripley
Release Date: 2004
Nationality and Language: USA/UK/ English
Running time: approx 105 minutes
MPAA Rating: R
and Production Company:
Director; Writer: Anthony Minghella, based on a novel by Patricia Highsmith
Cast. Matt Damon, Jude Law, Cathe Blanchett, Gwenyth Paltrow, Jack Davenport
Technical: Standard aspect
Relevance to doaskdotell site: Gay-themed thriller
Movie Review: The Talented Mr. Ripley
Starring: Matt Damon, Jude Law, Cathe Blanchett, Gwenyth Paltrow, Jack Davenport; Director: Anthony Minghella; based on the 1995 novel by Particia Highsmith; previously filmed in France by Rene Clement as Purple (1960)
9.5/10 MPAA Rating: R (soft, could be PG-13)
This film is a mixture of genres: the art-house, period-piece (Italy in the "glorious" 1950's) literary epic (The English Patient, which Minghella directed in 1996) and plain-old Hitchcok. Indeed, this has the intense character-probing, the close-up shots (precluding use of wide-screen format) of Vertigo. The story also bears a resemblance to the arch-plot as in The Postman Rings Twice and Body Heat (1980). (In Body Heat, the villain [female in this case] gets away with it, too.)
(such as Time,
One line from
Ripley's mouth, "I'd rather be a fake somebody than a real nobody,"
seems to aim at what I call
narcissism elsewhere on
this site. Earlier, just before Ripley's second-degree murder of
Greenleaf on the little boat near
I do have a problem with the boat scene (and with an earlier scene in the train station with similar discussion). When you want somebody to split, to kiss off, you don't invite them to a 1:1 on a kayak-sized boat. You ignore them, turn off the mail controls to reject their email, change your phone number. You give no detectable response. Because this did have the makings of a typical stalking setup.
The thing about the narcissism was that (apart from having never skiied) Ripley is a lot more talented than Greenleaf. With any calculation at all, he could have made a lot of himself with legitimate means. Cathecting someone is something a lot more subtle than just following hi, around or stepping in his shoes and living a similar life, although earlier in my own coming out process, it took me time to learn that.
There is something else to say about the movie's viewpoint about marriage and "girlfriends." Both are shown as basically a sham. Ripley tells Law, "you don’t love her, you love me." And he's right. And here we enter my philosophy: to really strengthen (traditional) marriage and "family values," you have to allow men the freedom to understand what they are doing, and take the extra responsibility that goes with taking care of yourself first. None of the characters except Smith-Kingsley's (Jack Davenport) gentle homosexual one at the end (the cuddling scene with Ripley is quite touching… but then what???) seem to get that.
I love the
line "officially, there are no homosexuals in
And still another great line is the exchange "you don't choose your parents," when Greenleaf Senior retorts "you don't choose your children, either." So people try several times to get one "winner"? Lots of social issues here.
Another thing about the deception puzzles me: Ripley unclothed, looks a lot different (smoother) than Greenleaf, and Greenleaf comes back with "you're so White." Even the girl friends later don't "notice" men's bods as much as gay men do.
Ripley does come across to me as a "subjective masculine." And whatever his "Cunanan like" sociopathy, he comes across as more "masculine" sometimes than most straight men. The computer then predicts that Greenleaf is an objective feminine; and that fits, because Greenleaf is pretty bitchy sometimes.
(2002, Fine Line, dir. Liliana
Cavani) is based on a subsequent novel
by Patricia Highsmith but it hardly
comes across as a sequel. John Malkovich
plays an older, balding and more less redeemable Tom Ripley. He
seems like a Dark Angel, a sociopath who either came from another
planet or came from nowhere. He sets up a complex assassination
scheme targeting a Russian mobster and others in
There has been some controversy about this film because here Ripley is shown as having “gone straight,” as in one scene where a girl friend teases his chest hair through a bathrobe. But he does kiss a male early on. I guess he is bisexual. Though prim and in control, his appearance belies a certain decadence, going bald in the legs. It is hard to imagine Matt Damon playing this reincarnation of Ripley; he isn’t “evil enough”—although there is that scene in Dogma where Damon’s “angelic” character shoots everyone in a corporate boardroom in cold blood.
American Psycho: A couple other films relate to the idea of the anti-hero getting away with it. “Baleful” Christian Bale plays Patrick Bateman, a Wall Street yuppie, at the perfect age, 27, who can focus absolutely everything on himself, in American Psycho (2000, Lions Gate Films). Well, despite the 10-minute skin cream facials, his face in some shots does look a bit older, with creases underneath the eyes and around the mouth. Great bod, all right. But, unlike Damon’s character in Ripley, Bateman really is nothing inside, no talents except for show, consumption, and sociopathic, pathological serial killing. (He says, in the opening scene, “I’m really not there.”) He really does make physical beauty temporarily symbolize something repulsive. At the end, he goes on a shooting spree out in the open and he can’t convince his own pals that he’s really guilty, poor guy. This is not Hitchcock, and seems removed from Hitchock’s 1960 BW thriller. Almodovar’s Bad Education comes much closer.
There’s a great new Australian psychodrama, The Interview
(1999, Cinema Guild and Pointblank Pictures) directed by Craig
Monahan. The Aussies can make their cinema intense, as we remember
from the films of Peter Weir. Eddie
Flemming plays a 44-year-old
down-and-out drifter whom the
(2005, ThinkFilm/Tartan/Content, dir.
Paul Marsh, wr with Milo
Addica, 105 min, R) has a Patricia
Highsmith kind of story, even if not by
her. From the title and story, we can see at least a distant
relationship with Shakespeare’s “King Lear” (which I had to read in
Senior English in high school). The setup is simple. A troubled,
discharged sailor and secret illegitimate son of a fundamentalist
Viewed at a distance, the film gives a telling account of how important family position is to most adults. It makes it all the more remarkable that it means so little to the rest of us.
the film is in anamorphic widescreen, and looks good visually with
the on location
The Ax ("Le Couperet",2005, Mars, dir. Costa-Gavras, novel by Donald E. Westlake, 122 min, NR but would be R, France). A paper company executive Bruno Davert (Jose Garcia) and lead chemist in France loses his job to restructuring and downsizing, shortly after turning 40, with a family and a young son. He gets fifteen months severance page but five years later is still unemployed. Popular culture and head hunters consider him washed up. He rails against their expectation of conformity. He decides to apply for a new position, with a new strategy: identify (with Google, perhaps) competitors for the position, stalk them and shoot them. Some of the executions are quite brutal, and happen in bucolic French and Belgian suburbs. (One point is that European capitalism can be every bit as materialistic and overdone as American.) This turns into black comedy, yet is dead serious. His now teenage son Maxime (Geordy Monfils) gets in trouble with the law shoplifting. The police start visiting him, telling him his family is in danger because paper executives are getting, well, executed.
The film narrative is a bit choppy, as some of the story is told in flashbacks from a point where he is hiding out from his last murder (including striking and running over a guy with his car) in a motel; and it is sometimes unclear when we are in flash mode.
The film, while from France (and apparently not yet having American distribution), certainly fits the Patricia Highsmith genre. The novelist, Donald Westlake, is American (New York), and the story was adopted to a European setting.
Fired! (2007, Shout! Factory, dir. Chris Bradley, Kyle La Brache, wr. Annabelle Gurwitch, 71 min) Mentions the company Right Management, which did my own outplacement when I "retired" at the end of 2001. Has a great opening black and white scene where Woody Allen fires Annabelle, and it really hurts. blogger link.
Tell No One ((“Ne le dis a personne”), 2006, Music Box / Europa, dir. Guillaume Canet, based on US novel by Harlan Coben, France, sug. NC-17. A pediatrician is investigated by police for apparent murder of his wife 8 years ago when he gets an email from her saying she is alive -- but then no one believes it. Blogger discussion.
Secret Things ("Choses secretes", 2004, First Run Features, dir. Jean-Claude Brisseau, 115 min, NC-17, France). Two young women Sadrine (Sabrina Seyvecou) and Nathalie (Coralie Revel) (a barback and nude dancer) get fired from a night club. They move in together, and after some lesbian masturbatory experimentation get themselves into the corporate world in order to seduce and corrupt the men. They're all too prepared to take advantage of the expectations of upper-class men. But one of them (Christophe -- Fabrice Deville) is a manipulative voyeur (who can turn on his own boss) and it can turn deadly. The plot takes some twists, climaxing in an orgy scene at a palace that recalls "Eyes Wide Shut." The ending, where a vulture feasts on the teats of dying Christophe (after a discarded ex mistress shoots him) is one of the grossest I have every seen. A bizarre thriller, to be sure. DVD is full screen.
The Walker (2007, ThinkFilm/Pathe, dir. wr. Paul Schraeder, 107 min, R, UK/France) is a curious mixture of 50's style Fox Cinemascope fashion spectacle with Hitchcock and Patricia Highsmith mystery plotting, and a touch of modern concerns about government corruption and the horrible risks (including ultimately terrorism) associated with it. The film opens inside a condo decorated with a lot of orange, and soon you see a foppish gay may Carter Page III (Woody Harrelson) playing canasta with some rich older ladies (Kristin Scott Thomas, Lauren Bacall, Lily Tomlin). Page speaks southern, as if to echo "Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil". He puts on a lot pretense (even wigs, that are well disguised). In the 50s, maybe gay men could get rich this way because they were no conceivable threat. But pretty soon we see laptops, and we know we are in present day. The movie, while shot in London (like "Eyes Wide Shut") reconstructs outdoor Washington DC well, especially the Meridian Hill area on upper 16th Street (probably with CGI reconstructions). One day, Lynn's (Thomas) male lover is found dead in his plush condo, his cat watching, his genitals sliced. Page makes the mistake of being the first on the scene (why is he there?) and becomes a suspect. Here the details of the movie, while posing interesting questions and speculations, don't seem to quite add up; maybe too many scenes were deleted. He is arrested but is released without bond (the DC police wouldn't do that). The victim's cat bonds to him when he takes the pet in, which may help establish his innocence (presumably the feline knows who did it). Page has a boyfriend who dabbles in gumshoe hi-tech amateur investigations of matters like the S&M aspects of Abu Ghraib (there is a bizarre effect where the boyfriend shaves a chained, hooded figure's chest on a computer). There is a subliminal or perhaps direct message that amateurs who get involved with such matters can attract trouble (perhaps criminal, perhaps terrorists, or perhaps being framed) to themselves and others around him. This impression is reinforced in later developments, such as a confrontation with Senator Lockner (Willem Dafoe)and "Bush brain" Ethan (Michael Reynolds) who warns Page that he is on the wrong side of history. By this time, we also get the innuendo that some combination of Bush's Brain and the Vice President are behind illegal tortures and it is being covered up (I saw this film at the Reel Affirmations 17 film festival the same weekend that "Rendition" opened). The denouement, with a hit and run, doesn't quite add up. But this turns out to be a rather bizarre thriller, mixing genres (even recalling "Advise and Consent"), using established stars in an independent movie that seems to be trying to be all things to all people. But it just moves too slowly.
Belle du Jour ("Beauty of the Day", 1967, Miramax/Zoe, pr. Martin Scorsese, dir. Luis Bunuel, 100 min, R, France) In this rather notorious film, Catherine Deneuve plays Severine ("Belle"), a frigid housewife who can't make it with her physician husband Pierre (Jean Sorel), so she becomes a daytime prostitute. Unfortunately, some of her customers have some rather sadistic intentions, and one of them is a potential assassin (however "smooth"). Finally, well, she learns. (No wonder the other women are jealous of "Belle" on "Days of our Lives" with her two men.)
Return to doaskdotell movies (reviews)
Return to doaskdotell movies, books, plays strike page (reviews)
Return to doaskdotell home page
Email me at Jboushka@aol.com