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THE TALENTED MR. RIPLEY

About the Music
Anthony Minghella points out the significance of music in "The Talented Mr. Ripley."

"Music is at the heart of the film in "The Talented Mr. Ripley". In adapting Particia Highsmiths marvelous and profoundly disturbing novel, it struck me that sound would more pungently and dynamically evoke the period in a film than the motif of painting that Highsmith uses in her book."

Continues Minghella: "I thought about what was particular to the period, existentialism and jazz, and tried to construct an argument in the film between classicism and jazz. I love jazz but I like Bach a great deal as well, and I sort of parceled out these polarized positions to Ripley, who hates jazz, and to Dickie, who loathes classical music. When we say jazz we think of people improvising, whereas with classical music everything seems formal. Yet Bach was the great improviser."

"I've played with the idea of who is the great improviser in the story. Dickie identifies himself as an improviser, someone who spends his day on a whim, while Ripley is characterized as stiff, formal. Eventually the film demonstrates that it's Dickie who has the more conservative nature and that Ripley is the one who can genuinely, almost pathologically, improvise. That is his talent. Ripley is a master at it, the real anarchist and subverter."

In effect, Minghella says the argument he constructed gave him an architecture, a structure in which the intricate ins and outs of the plot could unfold.

In the film, both Matt Damon and Jude Law were able to show off their singing talents. In scenes at a Naples jazz club - a seedy, crowded, smoke-filled cellar where Dickie takes Ripley for two nights out without Marge - Dickie and Ripley are invited on stage by Dickie's friend Fausto to perform an upbeat Italian pop tune, "Tu vuo' fa l'americano," a reflection of the craze at the time in Italy for all things American. (The character of Fausto is played by Fiorello, the singer and television personality who is one of Italy's biggest stars.)

On another visit to the club, Ripley goes on stage and slips into a solo vocal rendition of the Rodgers and Hart standard "My Funny Valentine," sung in the style of Chet Baker, one of Dickie's heroes. Minghella cites Chet Baker as key to the era the film depicts.

"More than anything else, it's Chet Baker that makes you feel the late '50s," the director says.

The spirit of Chet Baker also figures in a later sequence, if only in a shadowy way. During a climax in the action, Dickie and Ripley travel to San Remo to listen to jazz at the San Remo Jazz Festival - a more sophisticated and somewhat slicker version of jazz than they heard in the tiny Naples club. Although it isn't referred to in the film, Baker had actually appeared at the San Remo Jazz Festival at that very time, 1958

Ripley of course loves classical music; he's not at home in the Naples jazz cellar. But when he sings "My Funny Valentine," evoking the mood of Chet Baker, Dickie is bowled over. The closeness between them is clinched by the song.

"Music is tremendously important to Anthony," Matt Damon says. "He had all the music laid out even before we started shooting. It was a prime element in the story. And learning to play the piano and practicing, and having to sing, were very much a part of my preparation for the role.

"Singing 'My Funny Valentine' was a strange experience for me. We recorded it in Italy before shooting began. I'd never been in a recording studio before, except to do looping, ADR - additional dialogue recording - for films in post-production. Now here I was in a studio and I had to sing! Basically, I just imitated Chet Baker, singing as best I could.

"It was kind of embarrassing, especially being with people who are masters, guys like Guy Barker, the trumpet player, and the musicians in his group who back me. 'My Funny Valentine' is a pretty soulful song

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