T. it.: In pieno sole. T. int.: Blazing Sun. Sog.: dal romanzo The Talented Mr. Ripley di Patricia Highsmith. Scen.: René Clément, Paul Gégau . F.: Henri Decaë. M.: Françoise Javet. Scgf.: Paul Bertrand. Mus.: Nino Rota. Su.: Jacques Carrère, Jean-Claude Marchetti, Maurice Rémy. Int.: Alain Delon (Tom Ripley), Maurice Ronet (Philippe Greenleaf), Marie Laforêt (Marge Duval), Elvire Popesco (Mme Popova), Erno Crisa (Riccordi), Frank Latimore (O’Brien), Billy Kearns (Freddy Miles). Prod.: Raymond Hakim, Robert Hakim per Paris Film, Paritalia, Titanus. Pri. pro.: 10 marzo 1960 DCP. D.: 115’. Col.
The restoration of an interpositive taken from an Eastmancolor original negativemainly allowed for the cleaning up of the lights and original colours. In Plein soleil Clément deepened the drama of the colour, which in the film represents a rhythmic element, “acting as a counterpoint to the violent immorality of the characters”. The primary colours (red, yellow and cyan) are put together inside each frame according to the use of accessories, scenography or nature, and are combined like abstract imbrications that recall the paintings of Mondrian.
It was the producers, brothers Robert and Raymond Akim, who proposed making a film adaptation of Patricia Highsmith’s unconventional novel, The Talented Mr. Ripley (1955), to René Clément. The director was charmed by the ambiguity of the main character, Tom Ripley, a young broke American who is sent to Italy by a San Franciscan billionaire on a mission to bring back his bohemian son, Philip Greenleaf, who has set up home at Mount Etna. But Ripley slowly puts together a diabolical plan to kill him and steal his identity, therefore taking over all his wealth. After Mr. Ripois (1954), a venomously sarcastic comedy about a French charmer in London, Clément saw another young amoral character in Ripley, foreigner in a strange land, an imposter gifted with an innate talent in art of manipulating others. With the difference, compared with Gérard Philipe’s film that Highsmith’s Ripley is a killer, and the story starts as a savage comedy (with Nino Rota’s music, at times soft, at times alarming) and turns into a noir. A noir immersed in the lights and the warm and reassuring colours of the Mediterranean.
For the screenplay, Clément took advantage of working with Chabrol’s collaborator, Paul Gégauff, changing an essential dynamic of the novel: they replaced the frustrated homosexual tension Ripley had for Greenleaf with a master-servant relationship; the rich heir taking pleasure in humiliating his young friend with every chance he gets. If the silent hate of a humiliated and offended twenty-year old (Ripley never says a word against Greenleaf) provides an unsettling current that runs through the first part of the film, the second part is dominated by Ripley’s criminal initiation (he does not stop after one crime) and the ruthless ability with which the killer devours the victim’s identity and privileges, and he even seduces his victim’s girlfriend Marge (in the novel she disgusts him). Exaggerating the humiliation, Clément distills Ripley’s ferocious thirst and obtains the perverse effect of getting the viewer to identify with the killer. Compared with the novel, Clément sets the action in just a few places – Rome, Etna and the beach – intensifying the beauty of the natural environments with the Henri Decaë’s stupendous Eastmancolor and creating a subtle discourse between the physicality and the faces of the magnificent actors Maurice Ronet (Philip) and Alain Delon (Ripley), who would later play variations on those roles in another celebrated noir, La Piscine (1968) by Jacques Deray.