None of this is to say that Purple Noon has been rendered obsolete by the ’99 adaptation. At 115 minutes, it’s far tighter than the later film’s somewhat bloated 139 minutes. As a pure suspense thriller, Noon is preferable. But it’s clearly more concerned with the nuts-and-bolts of how Tom will evade law enforcement and avoid punishment for his crimes. The Minghella film is interested in the motivations behind Tom’s actions. Almost by default, Noon ends up being the more ambiguous of the two films, simply because it doesn’t evoke the mixture of empathy and revulsion that Mr. Ripley aims for.
Criterion presents Purple Noon on Blu-ray framed at 1.66:1. The 1080p transfer was made utilizing the original camera negative. For color reference, two original 35mm prints were used (as stated in the booklet). The results are strong, offering a film-like image that is relatively sharp and detailed. The transfer is free of artifacts and the negative was impressively cleaned up to remove any dirt or scratches. Audio is available only in simple, uncompressed 1.0 mono. A 35mm optical track served as the source of the remaster. The mix is clean and clear, presenting no problems with dialogue, music (by Nino Rota), or effects.
Don’t expect a fully-loaded special edition, but there are some useful extras included. The centerpiece is a brand new interview with Denitza Bantcheva, a René Clément expert. It’s just under a half-hour and covers various aspects of Clément’s career, with a focus on Noon. The most interesting piece is a vintage 20-minute interview with Ripley novelist Patricia Highsmith. We get some interesting insight into the conception of her novels. There’s also a 10-minute vintage interview with Alain Delon. The booklet includes some worthwhile reading, with an essay about the film and a vintage interview with Clément.
Clément’s directorial style with Purple Noon is minimalist. He moves the plot along in brisk, functional fashion, never attempting to attract or repel his audience. It’s a thriller in a far purer sense than Minghella’s take on the material. Clément’s tale of Tom Ripley is kind of a Rorschach test, with the director presenting the facts of the story. He allows the viewer to formulate his own take without moralizing.