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The movie that introduced much of the world to the powerhouse that is Alain Delon finally gets some high-def love from Criterion....
Criterion / 118 Minutes / 1960 / Unrated / Street Date: December 4, 2012
Danger lurks around every corner of Rene Clement's Purple Noon. This movie - one that made its lead, Alain Delon, an international star - often teems with fear of the unknown: Clement takes Patricia Highsmith's novel The Talented Mr. Ripley and unfurls it as a terrifying quicksand patch of a tale, one in which no one is innocent and everyone has something to gain. The magic of the picture is that even if you know how the thing is going to end up - many of us have seen Purple Noon multiple times over the years - you still bite your nails in anticipation during some of its sequences.
Yet this remains the Achilles heel of poor Purple Noon, now available as a Criterion Blu-ray edition: its sequential quality is what limits its dramatic import. It's the same tale as Anthony Minghella's Matt Damon adaptation - mistaken identities, sordid exploits, women, boats - but Clement only really puts the hammer down a couple times. For every segment in Purple Noon that works like gangbusters, there's another that retreats, that reverts back to a painfully blase storytelling structure. There's magic here, of course, but Purple Noon's low-hanging fruit is frustratingly plain.
That being said, though, it's hard to deny that Clement is one of our great film masters, and even when Purple Noon is full on idle (and it truly is about half the time here), this tale of love and lust and money is unquestionably watchable. Its status as 'the movie that gave us Alain Delon' is absolutely its number one asset as a piece of cinema history, but even with the occasional thrills in Purple Noon, the picture remains a thorny entertainment: it's extraordinary, but only in intermittent hot flashes.