Go backBack to selection


in Filmmaking
on Jul 23, 2006

Over at his blog, Mark K-Punk riffs on Patricia Highsmith’s Ripley books, their filmed versions, and glam — specifically, Roxy Music:

Significantly, Highsmith wrote the first Ripley novel in 1955 and only returned to the character in 1970. Tom Ripley was not a character that could fit into the rock and roll era, with its emphasis on teen desire, social disruption and Dionysiac excess. But Ripley’s‘hedonic conservatism’, his snobbery and his facility with masks and disguise, mean that he would be perfectly at home in the Marienbad-like country estate of Glam. If Sixties rock was characterized, on the one hand, by appeals made to the big Other (demands for social change and/ or more pleasure) and, on the other hand, by the denial of the existence of the Symbolic order as such (psychedelia), then Glam was defined, initially, by a hyperbolic/ parodic identification with the big Other – by the return of Signs and/ of Status.

K-Punk goes on discuss Ripley’s change in social status between The Talented Mr. Ripley and Ripley Underground and sees a parallel in the progression of the Roxy albums.

Ripley’s trajectory is uncannily in sync with that of Bryan Ferry (pictured). Roxy Music and For Your Pleasure, those exercises in learning and unlearning of accent and manners, are Pop’s equivalent of The Talented Mr Ripley. The clothes, the bearing and the voice are faked, but not yet perfectly. The roots still show, and the painful drama of becoming something you are not still carries an existential charge. Stranded and the subsequent albums, meanwhile, are the equivalent of the later novels; here, success is assumed, and the threats to the tasteful but banal idyll come from ennui, a certain unease with contentment, and – most ominous of all – the danger of the past returning. The vapid bucolia of Roxy’s Avalon – recorded when Ferry was himself married to an heiress and living on a country estate – would be the perfect soundtrack to Ripley puttering around in his Harpers and Queens dream home, Belle Ombre, with his wife, Heloise.

There’s more, including a discussion of Slavoj Zizek’s critique of Highsmith, over at the link above.

© 2024 Filmmaker Magazine. All Rights Reserved. A Publication of The Gotham