Posts Tagged ‘Alain Delon’

Restored in fine style by Studiocanal and the Independent Cinema Office, Italian auteur Michelangelo Antonioni’s 1962 Cannes Special Jury Prize winning L’Eclisse returns to cinemas – with a first time appearance on Blu-ray – 53 years after its initial release. The film remains both a visual marvel, as well as an astute and troubling critique of life in a modern world; it’s a vision that feels eerily timeless.

The final entry of a superlative, yet informal, trilogy also comprised of L’Avventura (1960) and La Notte (1961), L’Eclisse finds Antonioni exploring his existential concerns upon an increasingly grand scale. While La Notte focused on the relationship breakdown of Marcello Mastroianni’s self-absorbed writer and Jeanne Moreau’s wealthy, unfulfilled wife, L’Eclisse finds a similarly hopeless pair as they encounter one another in the midst of a stock market crash.

Monica Vitti, returning for the third time in the trilogy (and on routinely brilliant form), leaves her older lover and soon encounters a young stockbroker played by the annoyingly stylish Alain Delon (Plein Soleil, Le Samouraï.) In Antonioni’s trademark style, the two drift into each other’s lives, in a casual, non-committal manner and this is how their relationship remains. It is the petit flirtation that makes the pair so enticing to watch, but their city lives and aspirations limit them from forming a meaningful connection.

Such lack of humane engagement is best displayed in one would-be-tragic sequence, in which a drunk steals Delon’s sports car and comes to an unfortunate end in a river. The characters respond to this ostensibly tragic moment with frivolous discussion of the repair costs for the vehicle. Yet, Antonioni’s approach is never particularly critical of this behaviour; it is as if the director regards this as the natural state of people in this time and sets out to at least enjoy it with his detached (and technically virtuosic) image of cool.

While the film is perhaps less captivating in it’s depiction of the failings of modern relationships as La Notte, L’Eclisse truly endeavours to deal with something bigger: the transience of the human story. Just as the impeccably cool leads forget the ill-fated drunk driver, the film itself eventually disregards the protagonists themselves (and perhaps for the best, given Vitti’s character’s less-than-enlightened colonialist behaviour in an early scene and Delon’s detached moral outlook.) It is this bold disregard for character and plot that leaves us as an audience in a genuine state of crisis and makes the film so powerful.

Contrary to the life goal often attributed to James Dean (and actually spoken by John Derek in Knock on Any Door (1949) – to “live fast, die young and leave a good looking corpse” – Antonioni seems to tell us not to put faith in our more superficial desires. What mark can we hope to make on a world of stock markets, fast cars and good looks? L’Eclisse is a fascinating essay on this question and it’s all the more profound due to the master director’s refusal to offer us an answer.

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To celebrate Studio Canal’s 4K cinema and home entertainment release of René Clément’s classic 1960 thriller Plein Soleil (starring Alain Delon as Tom Ripley), we are giving away a Blu-ray bundle consisting of the newly restored Plein Soleil, Anthony Minghella’s The Talented Mr Ripley and Jean-Luc Godard’s Breathless.

To enter the competition simply answer the following question correctly:

Which of the following film actors has not played Patricia Highsmith’s recurring character, Tom Ripley?

  • Matt Damon
  • Brad Pitt
  • Dennis Hopper
  • John Malkovich


Terms and Conditions:

UK residents aged 15 and above only.
Competition deadline: 16th of September.
One entry per person.

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Newly restored for 4K digital projection, René Clément’s 1960 thriller Plein Soleil has aged well. With its bold Mediterranean colours and deviously charismatic central performance by Alain Delon, it feels as raw, gripping and cool today as Clément must have originally intended. The film, which is based on Patricia Highsmith’s 1955 novel The Talented Mr. Ripley (which Anthony Minghella adapted with Matt Damon in 1999) also possesses a lifelike moral ambiguity, often missing in overly literal literary adaptations.

Plein Soleil tells the story of Highsmith’s recurring American protagonist Tom Ripley. At the beginning of the film he is sent to Italy to encourage his friend Philippe Greenleaf (Maurice Ronet) to return to the US, so he can acquire his father’s company. After a breezy and humorous opening that establishes the pair’s roguish friendship as they buy a blind man’s walking stick, the film takes a sinister turn; Ripley develops an infatuation with Greenleaf’s long suffering and attractive girlfriend Marge (Marie Laforêt), initiating a chaotic sequence of events in which friendship counts for nothing.

Set partly on Greenleaf’s yatch the film plays like a precursor to Roman Polanski’s excellent 1962 drama Knife In The Water. Highsmith’s tense love triangle is filmed within the yatch with a flexible, innovative and claustrophic camera style. Clément achieved this by craning the roving camera into the moving set, which rocked back and forth, creating the illusion of waves. While Polanski’s film was a fierce political and social critique, probing issues of class, gender and age, Clément’s film is more concerned with the singular mania of its central character and Delon’s (undeniably French) Ripley is sufficiently gripping.

Clément proves himself as inspired a director above deck, as well as he is below, allowing for some brilliant physical acting from Delon. In the film’s most thrilling scene Tom Ripley navigates genuinely choppy waters in Greenleaf’s yatch whilst dodging the boat’s precarious, windswept boom. When Plein Soleil returns to land however, it feels no less treacherous, as Ripley navigates a dubious set of circumstances that only he can claim responsibility for.

While not as heavily existential as Wim Wenders’ Highsmith adaptation The American Friend (adapted in 1977 from her 1974 novel Ripley’s Game), Plein Soleil does possess an indeterminate morality that feels authentically drawn from its source material. As we witness Ripley’s perilously unethical decision making, Clément’s camera refrains from moralising judgement. Perhaps this unsettling indifference was the veteran director’s contribution to the then developing French New Wave; Plein Soleil is a slick, important film well worth revisiting.

Plein Soleil is out in UK cinemas from the 30th of August and on DVD & Blu-ray from the 14th of September.

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