There are many oddities on the surface of this French film. The main characters are Americans in Italy, played by French actors (Alain Delon, Maurice Ronet, and Marie Laforêt). The colorful look features pastels and bright, sun-filled scenes (the original title, Plein Soleil, roughly translates to “Full Sun”), yet the movie plays on tropes of film noir. Even the U.S. title is odd ... “Purple Noon” is never explained, in or out of the movie. (The title of the original novel, The Talented Mr. Ripley, became better known in later years, when it was remade as a film with that title.)
Most of this goes unnoticed, though, once the film begins. (OK, I found myself confused a few times, not quite understanding that those characters were American.) What you do notice are the hints of the French New Wave, the sneaky way the film goes from airy travelogue to dark character study, and the way Alain Delon seems to intuitively know what makes a movie actor. It is rare that you see Delon doing anything ostentatious, and in those rare occasions, he is serving the script. For the most part, he watches others, learning how to become them in the manner of a chameleon, while his physical beauty grabs our attention no matter who or what else is on the screen. This makes Delon a perfect person to play the sexually ambiguous Tom Ripley ... it is easy to understand why every character in the film would be attracted to him.
I feel like I didn’t give the movie the proper attention ... it had been a long day, my mind refused to focus. Thus, I suspect if I watched Purple Noon again, I might give it a higher rating and a longer review. I might also give it a higher rating if the ending were different. The obvious double-bill companion would be The Talented Mr. Ripley.