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En Plein Soleil (1960)

The first film in the Rosen Multiplex Alain Delon season is En Plein Soleil a 1960 adaptation of the Patricia Highsmith novel later made into an English film version by Antony Minghella starring Matt Damon, Jude Law, Gwyneth Paltrow and Cate Blanchett.

I prefer this  earlier French version directed by the Hakim Brothers.

Alain Delon was an unusual star in many respects.

Impossibly good-looking but with no acting training, he was discovered whilst hanging out at the Cannes film festival by Rock Hudson’s agent and was offered a contract by David Selznick.

He never made a film for him and he never cracked the American market but, for a couple of decades, he was top European box office – working with directors like Jean Melville in Le Samurai.

He also featured in Lucchino Visconti’s The Leopard – a lusciously lavish film starring Burt Lancaster and Claudia Cardinale.

In En Plein Soleil he plays Tom Ripley – sent by a rich American father to lure back his decadent son Dickie Greenleaf (Maurice Ronet) from Italy.

He adopts extreme measures after he begins to take over Dickie’s identity. Much of the film is shot on gorgeous locations around the Med on a boat.

The later version made more of a homo-erotic relationship between Tom and the son. This version centres on the familiar French film interest in a ménage a trois involving Marge (Maria Laforêt) the girlfriend of Dickie.

Alain Delon is adept at cold, amoral ruthlessness and therefore more convincing than Matt Damon.

In his career Delon was a shrewd businessman, taking distribution rights for salary, and involving himself in various business enterprises including boxing promotion.

He was good friends with Carlos Monzon the fierce Argentinian middleweight charged when he threw his girlfriend off a balcony.

Delon’s bodyguard was found murdered in a rubbish dump a crime rumoured to be linked to sex parties involving Georges Pompidou.

Delon also held extreme right wing views.

He was a fine actor: my favourite film of his was the Joseph Losey Mr Klein in which he played an amoral art dealer during World War Two buying works from desperate Jewish owners.

Though not Jewish his name attracted the unwelcome interest of the Gestapo and the more he tried to dig himself out of the hole the deeper into the mire he descended.

He retired to Switzerland and can look over Lake Geneva mulling over a highly successful career.

About Neil Rosen

Neil went to the City of London School and Manchester University graduating with a 1st in economics. After a brief stint in accountancy, Neil emigrated to a kibbutz In Israel. His articles on the burgeoning Israeli film industry earned comparisons to Truffaut and Godard in Cahiers du Cinema. Now one of the world's leading film critics and moderators at film Festivals Neil has written definitively in his book Kosher Nostra on Jewish post war actors. Neil lives with his family in North London. More Posts