Saturday, January 25, 2014

Re-viewing THE TALENTED MR. RIPLEY and mourning Anthony Minghella's untimely demise

Watching THE TALENTED MR. RIPLEY again, almost fifteen years after its initial release, turns out to be a major pleasure, for reasons both expected and not so. Having just recently seen once again, Purple Noon, the original film adapted from the Patricia Highsmith novel, and then coming upon the version written and directed by the late Anthony Minghella, suddenly available via Netflix streaming, a chance to view this film again proved irresistible. And worth every one of its 139 minutes.

It's a gorgeous piece of work in so many ways, from its depiction of Italy circa the late 1950s to the scenery, sets, costumes and all the rest -- jazz clubs, seaside towns, yachts, an apartment in which adding a refrigerator was a big deal, and mid-century Rome -- the movie is almost consistently, eye-poppingly beautiful.

Then there's that cast: Matt Damon (two photos up), in his best role yet, as the sociopath Tom Ripley -- so bright, so intuitive, and so incredibly dangerous; Jude Law (above) as his "idol," golden-boy Phillip Greenleaf, who has everything Tom wants, including his girlfriend Marge (Gwyneth Paltrow, below) in one of her best roles, too.

Then there's Cate Blanchett (below) and Philip Seymour Hoffman (two photos below) for major support, plus a roster of terrific actors, American and Italian, in the more minor roles. As good and as groundbreaking as was Purple Noon in its day (1960), this later version of the novel was able to do much more with the Highsmith property, thanks to the change in mores and movie "morals" over the 40-year span between the two. Minghella also allows much more psychology and character(s) into the mix, broadening and deepening the story.

Mostly though, this movie may remind you of the filmmaker and his fine career, and sadden you all over again that these were cut so short. Minghella (shown at bottom) died suddenly and quite untimely at the age of 54 in 2008. Known perhaps more as a screenwriter (20 credits) than a director (only nine), those nine films include classics like this one, as well as one of the finest love stories/ghost stories/rom-coms ever made, Truly Madly Deeply, and the award-winning The English Patient, which garnered the filmmaker his Oscar (along with eight others).

Minghella had such a wide range of interests, along with the ability, it seems, to bring them to wonderful life. The man had some misses (Nine, anyone? Didn't think so. Anyway, he wasn't responsible for the ham-fisted direction but only co-wrote the screenplay for that second-rate musical) and he did a few films that were good but not great. Yet imagine what he might have given us had he lived another couple of decades.

Meanwhile, see (or re-see) The Talented Mr. Ripley and bask in its beauty, surprise, and the terror of being this close to someone who possesses no conscience. None at all. But hey, he's moved by opera and its uber-theatricality. (Remember that scene -- used in the movie's trailer to throw us off-base -- of the spectacular, operatic blood flow? Whew!)

Talent simply abounds in this version of Ripley, and the movie is streamable now via Netflix and is also available elsewhere and on DVD and Blu-ray. (And that's Mr. Minghella, at work, below.)

No comments: