2011 Top Ten: Tom Ripley

I’ve had a fascination with the trailer for The Talented Mr Ripley movie since it came out. I was scared of the trailer! No, really. I found it creepy. It came out when I was in high school and I was hyper aware of it, but even the yellow color tones got to me. I knew it was about identity theft of the worst type as well as had homosexual undertones and I guess that was one too many hot issues for me to handle at that age. And yes, back in the 1990s it was an issue. Things weren’t just left to be as they were. It was like every teacher wanted to have a big debate over hot topics and I was exhausted about even thinking about half of them at that point. On a good day you were just lucky something important to you wasn’t being debated during class by your under qualified peers. But that is a separate subject.

I finally got around to reading the book this year after my superfan sister kept evangelizing it. I got her on one of those “you read this book and I read that one” and I desperately wanted her to read Beryl Markham’s West with the Night so a deal had to be struck.

I read the first book while traveling which seems to be the best way to read a Ripley book. I read the second book while traveling too. Patricia Highsmith was an expat living in Europe and got a first hand look at post-War Europe during the height of the American tourism. Her style of writing shows some of the minute details of the time both because it suits Ripley’s character and because she had also gone through all those phases of being an expat. She also has a interesting life story. One of those writers you could easily see their work being almost an autobiography. The observations while committing murder and disposing of bodies…let’s just say she has been thinking about it for a while. Or is a natural. Pick your creep’n.

It is also interesting on a technology level with Ripley’s traveling, how he’s able to pull off his crime, is tied closely with the limitations of technology. Misjudging someone’s character, the language and cultural barriers, not listening to your gut instinct…today technology helps people bridge those gaps. Back then you had to be a student of such things and match Ripley’s level of crazy just to keep up.

I’ve seen three, unrelated Ripley movies. Talented Mr Ripley, Ripley Underground, and one Ripley’s Game. None of them go together! Different actors, everything. No one seems to have attempted to tackle all of them. I’m not sure how someone who didn’t know his first story would see Ripley as more than just an art thief. Which he is more than just a art thief!

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