Patricia Highsmith on Cinema

I’ve never read a novel by Patricia Highsmith but the more time passes the more I see her name under the credits of incredible films. Known for her psychological thrillers, Patricia is famous for her stories about murder, existentialism and homoeroticism – her most famous book and adapted into film is nothing less than The Talented Mr. Ripley, which in my opinion, has an even better version in French with Alain Delon portraying the character of Matt Damon that you will see in this upcoming list.

And for people who say the book is always better than the film – which in most cases, they are – Patricia Highsmith’s work had the privilege of being adapted to the screen by talented directors, preoccupied not only by telling a good story, but also creating their cinema into an auteur piece of art. Since the blog talks about books, films, and art, nothing more suitable than making a list of great films that were adapted from Patricia Highsmith’s novels. Here they are:


Strangers On a Train (1951) by Alfred Hitchcock

Probably one of the first movies adapted from the American writer, Strangers On a Train is one of Hitchcock’s classics, starring Farley Granger and Robert Walker. The story is about a tennis player who meets a stranger by the name of Guy in a train and they talk about a theory that if each of them wanted to kill a person they know, the only way they would never get caught is if their victims were actually “swapped” from each other. The tennis player leaves the train thinking it was just a chat with a stranger, but the man who calls himself Guy actually takes the conversation seriously and not only kills one of the tennis player’s friends, but also expect him to kill another person for him. Also considered as a noir film, Strangers On a Train is probably my least favorite Patricia Highsmith’s novel adapted to the screen, and definitely one of my least favorite Hitchcock movies. However, its importance is extremely relevant, especially for having her work in the hands of such an incredible filmmaker.


Purple Noon (1960) by René Clement

The first adaptation from The Talented Mr. Ripley‘s novel, Purple Noon is directed by the notorious French director René Clement. Not only way better than the American version, this film has not only an incredible cinematography and directing, but also stars Alain Delon playing the main character, whose beauty and mystery gives life to Tom Ripley in a way classier and interesting version of Matt Damon. Both films are so different from one another that is actually not even worth comparing them. For those who don’t know what the Talented Mr. Ripley is about, the story is focused on Tom Ripley, a young man who is sent by a man to Italy to find his son, Philippe. Arriving there, Ripley is so fascinated by Phillippe’s personality and lifestyle that he actually steals his identity. However, the consequences might be too dangerous for him. Probably my favorite Patricia Highsmith’s adaptation.


The American Friend (1977) by Wim Wenders

I’m really intrigued about how this Patricia Highsmith’s novel is since Wim Wenders created such an interesting, different and original piece with “The American Friend”. The film tells the story about a guy who makes frames who is offered a great amount of money to kill two people he doesn’t know. Despite the plot being quite simple, several characters within the story turn this neo-noir thriller into an existential drama, where Tom Ripley itself appears in the plot and is seduced by the frame worker’s figure. The movie is also known to be an American film homage of Wim Wenders by using great directors in its cast such as Samuel Fuller and Nicholas Ray. Not mentioning we have Dennis Hooper using a cowboy hat just because, speaking with the American westerns from the ’50s. With all that said, “The American Friend” is an amazing movie not only adapted from the pages of Highsmith’s books, but also, a very strong form of expression from the director itself. The murder scenes are as beautiful as Jean-Pierre Melville movies.


The Two Faces of January (2014) by Hossein Amini

It’s funny how such an incredible movie got such little attention. Released not longer than a year and a half ago, The Two Faces of January has Kirsten Dunst, Viggo Mortensen and Oscar Isaac in a love triangle thriller in the middle of Greece and Istanbul. With a breathtaking cinematography, the movie tells the story of a couple full of secrets who travels to Greece and find themselves hanging out with an American guide who plays tricks on people. When a body is found in a room of the couple, the American guide helps them out and they find themselves stuck with each other, running away through Europe. With several elements such as The Talented Mr. Ripley and Strangers On a Train, The Two Faces of January is probably one of the best thrillers of 2014, full of surprises and twists, turning the Highsmith novel into a worthy piece of art.


Carol (2015) by Todd Haynes

Probably the most known Patricia Highsmith’s adaptation, Carol was probably one of the most talked about movies of 2015. Cannes acclaimed and Oscar nominee, Carol is based on the most controversial Highsmith novel called “The Price of Salt”. The film tells the story of a woman who falls in love with an older woman in the 50’s. The movie talks about a lot of prejudice in a very intolerant time and most importantly, talks about the people that we fall in love with, no matter their gender or sexuality. Todd Haynes transmits this sensibility in an incredible directing, where the most powerful characteristics of the movie are in details that are probably not in the script, such as body movements, performance and the beauty of the actresses itself, making Carol one of the most beautiful Patricia Highsmith’s adaptations.


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