Sunday, October 16, 2011

Ripley's Game

Sorry I was too tired to write this last night - it was almost 3am and I was running on about 3 or 4 hours of sleep. I love this movie project, but man, life just gets in the way sometimes.

Even though I was feeling really tired and crummy when I got home from work yesterday, I was excited to watch the movie (instead of my other options like sleep or eat or booze) - Ripley's Game, directed by Liliana Cavani in 2002. I watched this in a great film noir class I took - the one where in which I watched a ton of films from the Great Movies. That professor had really great taste in movie, I miss his classes! I loved Ripley's Game so much when I first saw it in class that I rented it right away so I could show Anthony. We both have an obsession with John Malkovich, and we both loved his suave psychosis in this movie.  I haven't seen the other Ripley movies, so it's unfair to say that this is the best, but I really love it regardless.

 I'm going to use a summary from IMDB so I don't spoil the whole movie too much, because you really do need to see this if you haven't. "Tom Ripley - cool, urbane, wealthy, and murderous - lives in a villa in the Veneto with Luisa, his harpsichord-playing girlfriend. A former business associate from Berlin's underworld pays a call asking Ripley's help in killing a rival. Ripley - ever a student of human nature - initiates a game to turn a mild and innocent local picture framer into a hit man. The artisan, Jonathan Trevanny, who's dying of cancer, has a wife, young son, and little to leave them. If Ripley draws Jonathan into the game, can Ripley maintain control? Does it stop at one killing? What if Ripley develops a conscience?"

Like I just said, Malkovich is awesome in this role. He's the sort of passable as normal - you believe that he is wealthy and has good taste. You also can see that he is pyschotic, and believe it completely. Ebert points out that he's often lit so you can see his bone structure, the "skull" under his skin. You always get the sense that there is something terrible about him, even when he's not being murderous. I don't know if this is just a fascination I have, or something that others enjoy as well, but there is something really intriguing about a suave, talented murder. Someone who can kill without flinching and remain more concerned about his watch while cleaning up a murder than anything else.  I sort of like him. In the same way that everyone sort of likes Hannibal Lecter, you know?

I like this movie because it's weirdly funny, as well. I mean, it's not a comedy, but it has that odd dark humor that comes up anytime someone in nonchalant about doing something violent. Ripley has a lot of corny one-liners that I always laugh at, even though they're sort of dumb. They're perfect for his character and I just adore them. Like this - " If you don't do it convincingly, I take you out back, and I run my f-cking tractor over your head the rest of the day. Okay?" I think that's funny, be it nervously or just that Malkovich says it, but I love it. Or, you know, upon discovering three dead bodies in a bathroom on a train, he muses, "It never used to be so crowded in first class." So dumb but so funny! And it's the way that he says it - so calmly and normally - that really gets me. It might just be the Malkovich factor at work here, but I just enjoy Ripley and his mannerisms. It makes the whole movie for me.

The whole movie isn't just great because it contains Malkovich, though (although it pretty much is honestly). The plot is great - I like that it throws some interesting things at Ripley that we wouldn't have expected him to have to deal with. For all of Ripley's...issues, he's not a cynic, and even he finds something new and delightful about human nature. It's unexpected and really fantastic. Ebert says in his essay that this never even got a theatrical release in the US, which is awful. If you like suave killers (who doesn't?) and John Malkovich, this is one of his best performances and a seriously great movie.

Have any thoughts about Ripley's Game? Share them in the comments!

Ebert's Great Movie Essay on Ripley's Game
Buy or rent it on Amazon

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