S1: Hello. Welcome to the talented Mr. Ripley episode of Sleep. Money Goes to the Movies. I’m Felix Salmon of Axios. I’m here with Emily Peck, also of Axios.
S2: Hello. Hello.
S1: And we are joined this week by Jared Hohlt. Jared, introduce yourself and tell us about how you managed to persuade us to watch two movies this week, because we’re actually watching not just one, but two.
S3: Hello, Emily. Hello. Felix, I am the former editor of Slate. Now back to discuss these movies. I don’t know if I persuaded you so much as my first movie choice was vetoed and then we sort of managed to sneak it back in. I say that with no animosity whatsoever, but I think were sort of a good pairing. That said, since talented Mr. Ripley was not my choice, although I enjoyed it very much. Does one of you want to introduce the.
S1: Talented Mr. Ripley? Just like Office Space came out in 1999, this annus mirabilis of movies, all the best movies came out in 1999, even Toy Story two. And it was one of those great sort of star power Miramax vehicles with all the hot actors in it, Jude Law and Cate Blanchett and Gwyneth Paltrow. And it was lots of expensive locations. And Anthony Minghella, the director. And the Patricia Highsmith novel. And I think it was received reasonably well. And it, you know, got the glamour. But the reason why I think and I can’t exactly remember how we managed to relate on this one, but I think the reason why we wanted to put this in the mix is that it has a very interesting take on class and money and and the relations between the moneyed and the not moneyed. And it has a relatively, I would say, normal take on that, which is that the people with don’t money want money. They envy the people who do have money. And if you’re a complete psychopath, you will do anything to to sort of get the money. Meanwhile, the moneyed people are kind of like blithe and unworried by anything and live in this kind of little bubble of privilege. I haven’t read the book, but is that kind of would you agree that it’s like the general sort of media that we find ourselves in?
S2: I would agree about the talented Mr. Ripley. Tom Ripley is poor. He’d rather be a, as he says, a fake somebody than a real nobody. And his mission in the movie is to become like a rich person, to like Dickie Greenleaf, the ultimate rich person played by Jude Law, this amazing, charismatic, charming guy who has all the right clothes and the right hair. And Matt Damon wants to be just like that. And the only complication with your assessment, I’d say, would be the character played by Cate Blanchett, Marge, who at some point says she hates her money. She’s like, you know how it is being rich. We only the rich can really understand each other and only the rich can really understand how hard it is to be rich. So there is that little complicating factor in the middle, although.
S1: She she doesn’t even say it’s hard to be rich, but she she’s like there’s a kind of self-loathing, sort of slightly sort of guilty. Like I didn’t do anything to deserve this thing that she has because they’re so you know, they’re all like scions of the rich. With the exception of Dickie’s dad. We don’t meet anyone who’s actually made money in this movie.
S3: Right? There are spending their parents money, two ends that are sort of obviously glamorous to watch but don’t seem to be amounting to too much. March Cleaver, Gwyneth Paltrow is writing a book. Dickie, what is he doing exactly? He’s into jazz in the Patricia Highsmith novel. He’s a painter and a really bad painter. Tom Ripley sort of looks at his works and kind of recoils at them. So, yeah, I also thought the lines in Cate Blanchett character is so terrific because she’s basically saying, if you have money, you know, you’re only comfortable around people who not only have it, but also sort of despise it a little the way I do. And that is, you know, this very particular relationship to money that you can only have, obviously, if, first of all, you have a ton of it and also if you’re privileged enough to regard it that way. Of course, the irony is she’s talking to somebody who she thinks understands her completely but doesn’t have money. She’s saying this to Tom Ripley and in fact, is out to get as much money as he can. And so she’s completely misunderstood since he’s you know, he’s fooling them all.
S1: Talented. Mr. Ripley, coming up on Sleep, the money goes to the movies. Is Tom Ripley’s motive here for his crimes. Is it financial?
S3: Well, and see, here’s the thing. I’d say, and it’s really tedious to compare a book to a movie is this is I promise the last time I’m going to say it, I would say, you know, one main difference is that I think in the book, first of all, he’s just a much colder, more calculating character and he’s already pretty calculating and in the movie. And I think his desire is indeed really about improving his status in life, financially and otherwise. The movie takes a sort of, you know, subsub theme of the book, which is kind of the queer subtheme and elevates that, I would say, and turns the movie to some degree into more of a kind of love triangle between him and Dicky and Marge than perhaps it is in the book. Certainly in the book. And I would say, you know, we could talk about that a little what what the movie is trying to say about how his identity tortures him in various ways. And what is he on the run from and what is he trying to get to and who is he trying to get away from?
S2: Yeah, let’s talk about that more because I definitely didn’t get the sense this was about money solely for Tom Ripley. It was more about inhabiting a life or becoming something of someone. Like taking his obsession with Dick is everything and embodying it.
S3: Mm hmm. I think you’re right, Emily, but, you know, of course, that can only be activated through the money. And so, you know, in order for him to do it, he’s got to be able to still go to the American Express office and get the checks that are meant for Dickie. Right. And do the whole I mean, you know, there’s no way around it. And then I think as time goes on, he gets better and better at it and sort of the trappings of the money. Right. And so you’ve got you know, even when you look at the apartments he moves into, he moves into this apartment in Rome. And then Dicky’s very suspicious friend, Freddy, who’s played so brilliantly by Philip Seymour Hoffman, comes by and sort of looks around the apartment. You know, Dickie’s dead at this point in time, has been occupying this apartment and sort of looks askance at the furniture and says, you know, this is really so bourgeois.
S1: This place come furnished and it doesn’t look like death. It’s horrible, isn’t it?
S3: He’s so.
S4: Bizarre. Oh, that’s a you should watch them, stupid. Excuse me. Excuse. You know, in fact, the only thing that looks like Dickie is you. Hardly. Hmm. Somebody done them in their hair. Is there something you’d like to say, Freddy? Do you have something you’d like to say? I think I’m saying it. Something. Something’s going on.
S3: And then, you know, the next apartment he moves to in Venice? He seems to have got the hang of it a bit more, as people say throughout the movie. He’s a really quick study. He gets the signifiers pretty quickly. You know, at the beginning of the movie, he can’t be counted on to make a martini. By the end of the movie. He’s shaking it with great expertise. You know, there’s that great scene at the beginning of the movie where he hasn’t met them yet in Italy. But he’s he’s arrived at the town that Dicky and Mar live in, and he’s staring at them through binoculars. Right. And he’s practicing his Italian and he’s practicing his Italian basically by saying, like, this is my face. This is Dicky’s face. That is what, you know, getting the lines right. But it’s sort of like this unbelievably creepy. Like, I’m about to embody this person. I’m about to learn how to speak Italian better than this American who speaks who speaks quite good. Italian, it seems, speaks it. You know, he’s he’s just out to kind of, like, subsume him in every way.
S1: And he and he’s very open about this. The first time he meets Will, maybe the second time he meets Dickie, he’s like, What’s your town? He’s like, I inhabit other people. I can impersonate other people. It seems to me that that’s really what he you know, that’s his goal all along. Then from the minute he literally steps off the boat and some random woman comes up to him and asks him his name, and he’s like Dickie Greenleaf, which is such a weird thing for him to say. But it’s also just him in that mode of like, I want to inhabit this life. And of all the names to pick that slate, that one that he gets to read, sort of like there’s a lot of coincidence and luck and fortune in this movie, but that very quick lie that he dashes off as he gets off the boat turns out to be incredibly fateful in a bunch of different ways and kind of like saves him inadvertently from being immediately found out when he after his is murdered. Dickie.
S3: Yeah, you’re right. I mean, it seals his fate. It seals Dickie’s fate and sort of seals all of the character’s fates. And it seems like it’s hard to tell. It seems very impulsive that he said that. Right. It just sort of came out of his subconscious. I think it didn’t feel premeditated to me that he decided to introduce himself as Dickie Greenleaf upon disembarking.
S2: And one thing that just occurred to me, and we can maybe talk about it if we transition to talking about the other movie, which we haven’t yet, Nancy.
S3: You haven’t mentioned about.
S1: What is what is the other movie?
S2: Emily It’s called Fox and His Friends. It’s a movie from the early 1970s, a Fassbinder movie. Did I say that right, guys?
S2: Fassbinder. The point I’m trying to get at about Ripley is it’s sort of an indictment of class and the way the wealthy see themselves that this man can so quickly become one of them. Do you know what I mean? Like in the Fox and Friends movie, it’s very clear that this lower class guy doesn’t measure up to whatever the standards of these so-called allegedly higher class people he starts hanging around with. You know, he doesn’t know how to eat soup. He puts bread in the soup in this other movie. Anyway, in Ripley. I mean, Matt Damon’s character, Tom Ripley, he figures it all out pretty quick. Like initially Freddie Miles is calling him out, but he gets it. He gets it fast.
S1: And Freddie, like Philip Seymour Hoffman. Actually, both Freddie and Dickie are relatively perspicacious about this. They both see the striver. They both see someone who’s not in that class. Dickie has this wonderful line where he’s like, I knew you’re not from Princeton because you’re too smart, basically. Well, he’s like, I always called the guys at Princeton, The Cream of America, rich and thick. And that’s what Ripley lacks, right? Is that kind of ability to not care about anything. He’s oily, he always cares. And he kind of like for a psychopath, kind of, like, wears his heart on his sleeve.
S3: Yeah, in the movie version, certainly. Yeah. Which I think is important. Right. Because you are sort of you’re rooting a little for Matt Damon. I mean, it’s funny, I went back and looked at the interview of the movie at the time and he said something like, This is bad Will Hunting. Matt Damon is this character who, you know, obviously is is creepy and plays the creepiness very well against this kind of slightly weird wholesomeness, this sort of, you know, this ability to align himself with people. I mean, it’s such a clever trick he does, where upon arriving, he basically announces to Dickie, like, here are my skills, by which eventually I will do you in. And in fact, it becomes this sort of bonding moment, you know, and he does this very creepy and effective imitation of Dickie’s father, who, of course, has sent him over there to get Dickie back from Italy to. Make him return to New York and to start a productive, prosperous life anyway. So it’s fun to watch him. It’s fun to watch the movie play.
S1: In the movie. It really seems the Dickie Greenleaf murder in particular was not in any way premeditated, that it was a crime of passion, that, you know, they’ve been dancing around this sort of unrequited love that Ripley has for Greenleaf for a while. And it all comes out in this big fight on the boat. And as Dickie’s dead ends up saying, like, Dickie has this violent street streak to him and they wind up having this fight and and Ripley winds up killing his, you know, the man he loves, not because he wanted to. Steal his traveller’s cheques, you know, but because there was this deep, sort of passionate, you know, fight.
S3: Yeah. Again. Okay, I’m doing it. I’m so sorry. Very different book. The book. The book. This crime is certainly more premeditated. And, you know, just to give an example in the movie. So after he’s killed Dicky there in the boat right there off the coast of Italy and and, you know, Ripley starts sort of spoons him. Right. They lie together, he and take his corpse in the boat as it floats to someplace, presumably before he drops the body overboard, weighs it down, whatever. In the book, as best I recall, you know, immediately after he kills him, he starts kind of rifling through his pockets and just taking things. So he takes, you know, the wallet and he takes the lire and he takes jewelry. And he it’s it’s a very different sort of crime. That’s not to say that there isn’t a strong undercurrent of attraction that he has for Dickie, that you kind of sense in the book and there, you know, are all sorts of of other things going on there. But I do think it’s it’s much more driven by. What would it be like to effectively take over this person’s life where I think in the movie that idea maybe comes after the sort of the more that crime of passion that takes place on the boat.
S2: That’s a very Hollywood change because they they want they want people to come watch the movie and enjoy Matt Damon and have root for him, which was on my list of questions to ask you guys if you rooted for him. I didn’t really, but I could see he’s so likable even as a villain, and that is just very hard.
S1: I wasn’t rooting for him at all. I didn’t find him likable in the slightest. And in fact, I didn’t understand what it was that Dickie saw in him. I was much more on the side of Philip Seymour Hoffman, like basically saying, like, who is this guy and what is he bringing to the party? He just seems like this sycophant who’s a leech you like just never goes away.
S2: Yeah, I think Dickie likes having people around who are really into him. That was my sense. Like, he really sort of like gets off on that. And that’s why he liked having Tom Ripley around. He likes having he liked having an admirer that he could kind of like lorded over a little bit and then eventually gets bored with him as he literally tells him on the boat, you’re boring.
S3: Right? No, I think you’re very right.
S1: I’m like, yeah, I mean, sycophants are boring, right?
S3: Yeah. But I think like, you know, he, he likes having around. He likes somebody who flatters his own sense of himself. Dickie is an artist. I think to your point, Emily, you know, Tom is pretending to like jazz as much as Dickie does. Then Dickie gets to take him to a club in Naples and introduce him to that world.
S2: Yeah, and I loved Philip Seymour Hoffman’s character.
S1: Just who fucking nails it, right? Who gets everything.
S2: Right? Tommy. Tommy. Tommy. How’s the Pippin? I love that. He was so good.
S3: Yeah, that’s a that’s a great line. So that’s you know, they’re on their on Dickie’s boat, which he’s named Bird, I guess, after Charlie Parker and, you know, it’s him and Marge and and Freddy and Dickie and Marge go, you know, below board to have sex. And Tom really sort of watching them and filming Seymour Hoffman is watching Tom watching them and saying that thing. And yeah, he just seemed like the sort of acerbic, which is sort of calling him out for this act that’s so gauche and unappealing to be watching these people.
S2: He sees right through him.
S1: The only sort of psychological error that Freddy makes is that he isn’t in any way scared of Ripley, when, of course, he should be.
S3: Yes, that’s such a good point that actually people. Yes, they they don’t realize they should be scared of him until it’s too late. And actually, you know, and the people who are scared of him then manage to kind of get away, but sort of few chance better than through their own realizing in time.
S2: Yeah. Gwyneth Paltrow’s character, Marge, is scared of him by the end, and it does seem like he’s about to do something quite terrible to her. He has some razor blade in his hand. I didn’t really understand why the razor blade in his hand and cut himself, but she manages to squirrel out of that one.
S3: She’s discover that he has Dickie’s rings, which is very suspicious. Dickie would never be without his ring. So what does this mean? And yeah. And then he thinks he may have to kill her, but suddenly another friend arrives and he doesn’t.
S4: And that’s the irony. Marge, I loved you. You may as well know Marge. I loved you. I don’t know. Maybe it’s grotesque of me to say this now. So just write it on a piece of paper or something and put it in your purse for a rainy day. Tom loves me. Tom loves me. Why do you have to keys? Right. I told you. He gave them to me. Why? When I feel as if you haven’t been listening to anything I’ve been saying to you. I don’t believe you. I don’t believe you. It’s all true. I don’t believe a single word you said. You’re shivering. Look at you. March. Hey, let me.
S3: Well, one thing I want to ask both of you was how you how you felt about the end and maybe not even the last scene, but the sort of penultimate scene where once again, Ripley has to make a decision about how he’s going to continue with this lie. And somebody has to die of two characters and he he picks one of them. What did you both think?
S1: Yeah, I didn’t like that one. Again, as I as someone who hasn’t read the book, I knew how close so far it is in the book. But the whole thing was very contrived. This idea that, like, suddenly, you know, Cate Blanchett shows up on this boat and she knows him as Dickie. And you can’t throw her overboard because she’s got to look the aunts looking and therefore he has to, like, kill the other guy to whom he has now transferred his his affections.
S3: Right. And who’s his boyfriend effectively? Right. Like they are actually having a, you know, an actualized, realized gay relationship of some kind, you know, not we don’t see it explicitly, but we know that they’re lovers at this point and they’re traveling to Greece together. Yeah.
S1: And yeah. And the the idea that the only way out for him at this point, because of like the presence of the aunts or whatever, is to murder his lover. I’m like at that point, he yeah. No, I felt it felt like a little bit of a overreaction. I see.
S2: I mean, once you go down the killing road, it’s like, whatever. That’s just what you do.
S3: I guess you just have to keep doing it. Yeah, I guess you’re right. I mean, the thing I kept wondering, though, about the Meredith character played by Cate Blanchett is like she seems like she’s going to be a sort of recurring problem if he wants to continue living in this world. I mean, she’ll just keep she keeps showing up and whenever she shows up, he has to suddenly do this dance between pretending to be Dickie and actually being Tom Ripley. So the boyfriend knows him as Tom Ripley. She knows him as Dicky. They cannot all meet on the boat or the whole thing will blow up.
S1: But she’s literally the only person on the planet, pretty much with the exception of like a couple of cops in Rome who knows him as Dick. All he needs to do to have a nice life from here on in is to avoid her.
S3: Or kill her. But basically he needs to avoid her, which may mean in whatever the small circles of of late 1950s, American expatriate life and Europe are finding a new place to live and not sort of traveling the Grand Circuit in quite the same way because she will pop up again.
S2: It seems relatively easy in the 1950s to disappear into whatever identity you choose. I mean, Tom Ripley is able to just scratch out a picture and a passport or.
S1: He doesn’t even need to change his identity. Right. He gets to go back to being Tom Ripley, because now he’s getting an allowance from Greenleaf Senior, who, by the way, like and this is I wanted to ask Gerard about this one. There’s this scene where where Greenleaf, like, sends Marge out of the room and says there are certain things like only men can really talk about. And I wanted to say is the unspoken is the unspoken reason why Tom winds up with that large chunk of Dickie’s allowance. Connected to the fact that he had the rings. And there’s this feeling that Greenleaf Senior reckons that those who rings were given out of love and they had like a gay relationship going on. And he’s trying to, like, you know, honor that.
S3: It’s so interesting you asked that because I watched it with my partner, Philippe, and he immediately got that in a way that I didn’t quite. He said, Oh, I think one of the things that’s going on here is indeed that there’s an implication that the father knows that they had some sort of relationship that he does not want exposed. At this point, people assume has committed suicide or and that that is why he is now honoring doing the strange thing. Right. Of transferring transferring a large portion of the money that would have gone sticky to Tom instead. It’s a nice outcome for Tom, obviously. Yeah, I don’t know. It felt like maybe there was that suggestion. And then there’s also this idea that Dickie had, as you said before, this sort of violent past had beaten up some fellow student at Princeton quite badly, that the father also doesn’t want to come out. I did find that whole scene a little confusing because they found this private detective who, among other things, seems to have, you know, realized that Tom Ripley did not go to Princeton, which is how he had introduced himself to Dickie’s parents and is part of how he sort of got in with them and why they sent him on this mission in the first place. That I think he was like there was a Tom Ripley who was a piano tuner at Princeton. So you would sort of think that if that had been relayed to Dickie’s father, he might have been like, Hold on a second. Why should I trust this person? And yet they’re going ahead with this arrangement whereby he ends up getting the money. And it’s all very infuriating. And of course, the way that Marge, when it comes to his character, is treated and it is so frustrating because she she knows, she realizes that Tom did this. And, you know, before that scene, I think they come in and the father says something to her like, well, you know, there’s female intuition and then there are facts and it’s like, oh, she’s she’s pieced it all together and she’s furious.
S1: Well, she. Yeah, well, she kind of hasn’t like this is also a bit annoying to me is the kind of she’s piecing it together in a kind of hysterical, hand-waving way. She hasn’t pieced it together in a methodical, like, I can prove that you murdered my fiance that kind of way. And the Jude Law film that really came to mind when I was watching this was Side Effects, the Steven Soderbergh film, where Jude Law basically plays that Marge character who realizes that, you know, he’s had this relationship with a complete psychopath and no one believes him, but he really goes out of his way to prove it and eventually he succeeds. Right. And that film, like I think it says a lot about the evolution of filmmaking over the past 20 years. That film is so much more subtle and sophisticated than the sort of screenplay talented Mr. Ripley. Like, there’s never any doubt what’s going on. It’s very like what you see is what you get. Side effects. Everything is like, uncertain. There’s unreliable narrators all over the place. There’s like, it’s you don’t have that kind of omniscient camera telling you what to think. There’s been a big leap in general, sort of cinematic sophistication between Ripley and side effects.
S3: That’s interesting. That actually leads me to something I wanted to ask both of you about. It’s interesting watching this movie now, which I feel like people have talked about a lot in the last couple of years for two reasons. One, it sort of became a movie people really like to watch during the pandemic. I think like Vulture did a movie club around it. Kind of easy to see why, right? It’s just like the lifestyle porn of it and getting to go to Italy when nobody can travel anywhere. But then, of course, people keep talking about it right now in terms of all of the stories and movies and magazine articles that become movies about grifting. And so I’m really curious how you both looked at it in that context. I mean, I think one interesting thing right now, at least, is somebody told me about a year ago something that Hollywood is really into stories about grifting right now, but not grifting with body counts. They want they want gifts that don’t involve murder. I’m not sure if that’s true or not. But then in any event, if you just turn on Netflix, obviously any night of the week, you see that all you big, you could watch grifting things from now until eternity. So anyway, I just wanted to know what you both thought of the movie in that context.
S1: Yeah. And I think to answer that, I really need to go back to Fox and his friends and the real the by far the most interesting grifter in either of these movies is Egan in in Fox and his friends. And because there’s always this annoying just to sort of bring people up to speed is this upper class, sophisticated gay man who enters into a relationship with a very lower class, unsophisticated oaf played by Fassbinder himself and who happens to have won the lottery and basically grift or live. Fox is half a million deutschmarks out of him before discarding him having rung. All of the cash out of him. And it’s a particularly cruel and heartless grift. But one of the things that I get is with super interesting and a little bit like deliberately left unresolved in the movie is the degree to which it’s. You know, premeditated and in actually, like, you know, grifter ish rather than just like. What happened?
S2: Well, I think that I was thinking about grifting comparing the two movies because in the Fassbinder movie it’s a it’s a riff down again is grifting down. He’s taking this lower class person’s money and that’s all the money he’s ever going to have. And it’s, it’s just cruel. And in Ripley and in like the Anna Dalvi Netflix show, it’s grifting up. It’s like someone who has nothing is pretending to be just like rich people and conning them out of their money. And you kind of root for that because typically in these stories, the rich people are kind of dopes. They’re rich and think they’re the creme of society. Right? They’re just they’re basically asking for it. They haven’t done anything to deserve their wealth anyway.
S1: So which which is, by the way, FOX. Right. He is literally rich in fake like he’s not rich because he was born rich, but he’s rich the minute he wins the lottery. And and in this incredible act of cruelty, Fassbinder makes him kind of stupid. Like, normally when you when you see working class people in the movies, there’s like an ability and an often like an innate intelligence there, which is completely lacking from Fox.
S3: Yeah, he’s very naive. I mean, he’s very knowing about sort of one thing in particular, and that’s kind of, I’d say sex and and the sort of laws of cruising and desire and how sort of every everybody can be had. Basically, I think he says at one point and he sort of gets those rules. But when it comes to everything else. Right, he’s he’s very much out of his element. I think your point, Emily, is exactly. I mean, I was thinking that as well. It’s like in some ways and Fox and his friends, the grift is the system. Right. Like what we’re watching is sort of just what happens generally that the you know, the poor get preyed upon by the rich. In this case, the preying upon is as rite of an exceptional cruelty, you know, and he’s and he’s doing it because his family’s business, which I guess it’s a printing business or book making anyway, a printing printing business is in a lot of trouble. And so suddenly with Fox’s lottery winnings, they’re able to stabilize the business, and they’ve set up this loan with him. And as they’re signing it, you just know, oh, no, something is going to go terribly wrong here, and Fox is not going to get the better end of this deal. You know, one of the things that I think I think is so interesting about this movie is like you’ve got these romantic archetypes that are sort of mixed up a little here. So so Fox is sort of like the kept boy by the rich guy, but he’s also the sugar daddy because he’s supplying all the money. So they have this crazy relationship where, you know, Ergen is sort of, you know, saying, okay, now we’re going to move into this apartment and I’m going to buy all this sort of horrible baroque antique furniture. But you’re paying for it. And, you know, the relationship is on the skids or they’re not doing well. They need a vacation, so they’re going to Morocco and Fox is paying for it much the horror of the travel agent who sort of watches this unfold and thinks that, you know, all of this sort of the lore of order has been disrupted. So.
S1: Let me ask you about the furniture, because I feel like everything that, you know, everything that is ever interesting about wealth always comes down to furniture.
S3: I’m obsessed with the furniture.
S1: So there are two ways to think about the way the organ fills this like beautiful mid-century brutalist apartment with, like, baroque, late 17th century furniture. And you’re like, What the hell is he doing here? One is that it’s all part of a premeditated grift, and he’s buying it from his friend, the antiques dealer, and he fully expects and intends to sell it back to his the same friend, the same antiques dealer. You know, maybe a small laugh, but it’s a great way of laundering money. And the other one is that it’s all part of the psychological intimidation at Fox. He’s trying to place Fox in the most alien possible atmosphere to keep him completely on edge and never feel comfortable and never feel like he has real control over his life.
S2: I did not realize that that is a crazy psychological manipulation. Via furniture is something I had never considered until just now. And I’m honestly reeling and it explains the bed in this in this film, which is said, you’re insane.
S3: Emily. You’re totally right. It’s all down to the bed. It’s like a kind of a death bed of their relationship. It’s a bed. Yeah, it’s this ridiculous. What is it? An English Ferrari. It’s, frankly, a silent antique I was not even very familiar with. But in any event, it it’s sort of it’s way too large for the little nook it’s in. And it doesn’t seem like they have a very satisfying love life there. Whereas up to this point, perhaps that was the one thing about the relationship that was really clicking along. I don’t know. In any event, I do really feel like the apartment is indeed designed to make Fox feel very much not at home ever. And there’s almost a sort of idea of like, if you have money and you’re rich, you kind of deserve it because you know what to do with it. It’s the sort of hideous. It’s like, you know, so if you don’t know, you know, anything about opera. And to your point, Emily, you don’t know what to do if your lobster bisque and the last thing you’re supposed to do is dunk pieces of bread in it, you know, like, then do you deserve to have this cash at all? It’s almost like there’s this moral justification that you can has to say, like, well, no, this should be mine because I know how to spend it. And then of course, at the end when he’s parted seven ways with Fox and everything is so terrible, he basically turns to his previous boyfriend, who’s been waiting in the wings all the time and says, Oh, we’ve got to get rid of this furniture. It’s great. It’s hideous. I can’t stand being around it anymore. And you don’t know whether he always hated it or whether now it’s just comes with, you know, I don’t know, perhaps a little bench of guilt or something or some overlay that wasn’t there before.
S2: There’s the scene where they’re all eating the lobster bisque. And to me, the way rich people eat soup to me is like everything, right? Like it it astounds me. Like, take the spoon, and you, you. It’s away from your body, right? To have the soup and it goes in your mouth, there’s no slurping. That to me was the ultimate. The whole thing was like, Oh, yeah, okay, this guy does not belong. He is not rich. You cannot eat soup properly. That is the ultimate test.
S3: John. It’s so tragic. Like Fox is left with that sports car and he thinks, well, at least I can sell this and have some money. But no, because the oil crisis is on. And, you know, as the auto dealer says, well, nobody wants this, which is unclear also where the auto dealers are really telling the truth. They’re just trying to get it off him for, you know, a ridiculous price. So he’s really just screwed every which way when it comes to what he’s done with the money. No, no. None of the investments that were being made paid off.
S1: Except for the one that ought to have done, is, as I think I mentioned to you guys on email, like the way this film should have ended if it wasn’t so like incredibly bleak. The bit of his money that didn’t go to rich people things was 30,000 Deutschmarks that he gave to his ex-boyfriend, who just came out of jail for tax evasion. And he needed the money. And it was a genuine act of generosity. And the way the movie should have ended is that guy in his $30,000 or 30,000 Deutschmarks, you know, will now be able to sort of take him in and they’ll be able to live on that. But that never it’s just generally assumed by Fassbinder that no, he’s just like absconded with the 30 grand and there’s never going to be a scene again even though they were very, very close. And lovers like that was the bit where I’m like, really, you’re going to just like kill him off from a value movie? Those have been like, go back to his lover. Come on, go.
S2: Well, it’s not Hollywood, Felix. It’s not Hollywood. It’s Munich in the seventies.
S1: No, it’s definitely not. I want, like, sometimes. Sometimes I need some Hollywood ending. What can I say?
S2: Yeah. You’re not satisfied with either ending. You’re not satisfied with the Hollywood Ripley ending because Ripley gets away with his grift, right? I mean, it’s kind of a happy ending, even though it ends with murder and then the other movies in a non Hollywood ending. And you don’t like that either. So which is it, Felix?
S1: It’s true. Never satisfied.
S3: Yeah. The ending to foster dispenses. Bleak. Very bleak. I mean, I think instead, right. The boyfriend comes down the stairs in the subway and sort of sees his body and says, well, I don’t know, there’s nothing we can do for him now. And that’s true. That’s it. It is true.
S2: Was it just a bleak time in Germany in the early 1970s that there’s two young boys who like rifle through his pockets when he he’s, you know, dead on the floor in the subway like that? To me, two young boys doing that was super depressing and bleak. Like it must be hard times, right, if that’s going on in a society or no.
S1: I feel like it wasn’t that bleak. Like this is this is the post-war German miracle, right? With the fast cars and the and the wealth and the sophistication and, you know, the the way that, like gay men get to live life in a relatively like open and normal way. Like there’s a lot of like. I mean, that’s the one sort of if you want to see something positive in this movie and there’s very few things in this movie that are positive, it’s that right is the way that like you can have like a gay community that it’s just like they’re living normal.
S2: But they get kicked out of their apartment. Right. And the implication is that they.
S3: Do get kicked out of the apartment.
S2: Gay. And they can’t have they can’t bring that man up to the hotel room in Morocco. I mean, there’s like little flashes of like homophobia and hostility throughout the movie. I thought.
S3: But it’s true that I think, yeah, I mean, I think Fassbinder himself sort of, whether you believe it or not, felt that the homosexuality was almost incidental to the movie, the fact that it was really more about. Right. People, people praying each other.
S1: There’s a lot of penises for an incidental homosexual.
S3: Well, I mean, you know, this is right. This is this is the non Hollywood mid seventies European art film. Right. There’s a there’s a terrific scene in a kind of strange mud bath, I guess, in a way where, you know, it’s it’s a it’s a gay sauna with a full on mud bath that people emerge from and then hang out naked at the bar and have coffee and chat.
S2: Yeah. I suppose that is a positive thing. I didn’t think of it that way. I was just like, Oh, my soup slurping judgments. I was like, Oh, Germany in the seventies, all these people were Nazis. At some point, I bet, like, I know that’s wrong.
S1: They they were all terrible. There’s not a single sympathetic character in the movie Fox. His sister is just as bad as he is. Right? Like all of the upper class gay men are terrible. There’s no one even like Freddy in in Ripley. Right. Who who has self-awareness?
S3: Yeah. I mean, this is right. This is just state the obvious, the sort of irony of the title right there. No, he has no friends who are looking out after him. Right. You know, in the sort of the gay friends who are more from a working class background that he hangs out with in that one bar are also kind of contemptuous of him and a little bit suspicious of what he’s up to and this transformation he’s made in his life. And I think they they can kind of see that it’s not going to end well.
S2: It a cool jacket, though.
S3: He does have a green jacket, which is also taken from him right at the very end. Yeah, boys. Those boys also abscond with the jacket. So, you know, he’s he’s fully stripped of everything.
S1: And actually, like, there’s there’s intimidation by a furniture and there’s also intimidation by clothes. Right. That’s the other thing is the organ literally strips all of the clothes that he feels comfortable in off him and puts him into like some ridiculous floppy bow tie, which is clearly never going to work. He’s clearly never going to be comfortable. And and and the thing that’s frustrating about the movie is the way in which he just puts up with it and you’re like, Why are you putting up with this?
S3: Yeah. Then when he finally sort of tries to break free is when. Right? He’s then confronted with the reality of the fact that he’s been scammed this whole time and, you know, he expects he’s going to get this money back. And instead they say, oh, no, but you were working for the printing business. And so that was being paid back to you in salary, right? It’s like, again, this sort of exploitation of the system. I mean, look, you know, it’s I picked this movie because this friend of ours had always said she thought it was like the best depiction of class relations ever put to screen. I’ll let you argue about that or debate it or whatever. You know? What do.
S1: You think?
S3: Well, I think I don’t know. I mean, I went back and read this Jay Hoberman piece and he said, look, you know that. Yes. But it’s I don’t know if he said yes, but he said, you know, it’s not a subtle depiction of class relations and it is definitely not a subtle movie. And nor is it really meant to be I mean, it’s meant to be sort of you know, it’s it’s somewhat melodramatic. It’s you know, Fassbinder was obviously very influenced by Douglas Sirk. It’s got a lot of that in it.
S2: Organes family in that movie, are they actually truly upper class? I started wondering about that.
S3: Interesting question.
S2: They own a factory. That to me is not upper class, but maybe I’m misreading it.
S1: Right. So as as a yeah. As a German like I can try and sort of it’s not upper class in the sense of like Austrian, like Viennese high society, you know, of, of just like swimming around, going to the opera and having that Ripley like just living off your wealth landed gentry kind of thing because Germany really was destroyed during the war. And if you had any, you know, money, if you had any kind of old money, it all got destroyed into war with the inflation and that kind of stuff. So if you’re going to be rich in post-war Germany, you are going to work for your money, you’re going to go into some kind of industry, you’re going to start a factory, you’re going to start a company. That’s that’s the way that you build wealth and success. It’s not by just kind of like being rich and spending.
S2: Those people are gone. That’s so interesting.
S3: Super interesting. Felix I see that people continue to break down class not only in England but now in Germany as well.
S1: Now imagine that when they do.
S3: You could specialize in this subspecialty of yours.
S1: Let’s rank these things. Emily, what did you make of these two movies? You were the one who kind of hated Fox and his friends and therefore, like, steered us into the talented Mr. Ripley. Do you now, having seen them both, think that Ripley is a better movie?
S2: Ripley is a better movie because it’s more a you know, listeners know that I like to be entertained and Ripley is beautiful, especially the first half of Ripley is just a wonderful romp. It’s beautiful Americana. They’re singing in the cafe. And Jude Law is gorgeous. And it’s it’s a great movie. And it has that creepiness in the beginning that pays off in the end. It’s a good movie. I give it, I give it, I give it a nine. They don’t make movies like that anymore. And Fox and his friends, actually, I watched it again. I wound up watching it two times. And I have to say, like at the end of it all, I enjoyed it. It was a good movie and I think my enjoyment was enhanced by watching Ripley because the two play off each other so well. So. And I give. Fox and Friends a seven. Also, I think I understand more German than I realized. So that was that was a journey for me.
S1: I will say Fox and his friends was was frustrating to me. I, I felt that there should have been more humanity. I think, like, I think to Jared’s point, that Fassbinder was so hell bent on making this allegory about class relations that he forgot to imbue any of his characters with any actual humanity or three dimensionality. And they, they just became these kind of characters who came on and, and represented the, you know, the lumpenproletariat or whatever. And you’re like, Yeah, you can do better than that. I will say, I will ultimately give that one, I think A, B and Ripley. Yeah, I’ll give it like a B-plus, I think. But you’re right, they don’t make movies like that anymore. Like it’s impossible that they’ve kind of high budget, you know, middlebrow Oscar bait kind of thing. Like what happened to that?
S2: Love the middlebrow.
S1: All right.
S3: High tech middlebrow. Yeah. You know, as much as I would love to start a fight in our last minutes and create some controversy, I’m basically in agreement if you both I mean, I think, you know, it’s funny, when I pulled up Mr. Ripley and I saw it was over 2 hours, I thought no movie needs to be over 2 hours at this. And yet there were maybe a few moments one could have turned back. But so just so entertaining. And really, again, I think one of these instances where you take source material and do your own thing with it and do it really brilliantly with with maybe a few plot problems here and there. But so I’d say a minus. And Fox and his friends, it’s interesting. I mean, the one thing I would say is that out of all of the characters in these two movies, I felt for Fox more than anybody else. So in that sense, you know, and you know, obviously.
S1: But you couldn’t identify with him, but.
S2: You could find.
S3: His because I identified with him as somebody who and this is sort of how you’re supposed to feel about Ripley as well. I guess this is sort of in this world that is so foreign to him. And of course, with Ripley, he’s able to. Yeah. Figure out quick and then and use it to his advantage. And then Fox just keeps getting more and more lost up to the point where even the things that he sort of thought he knew, he no longer knows how to operate. I mean, there’s this really horrible, tragic scene at the end where these two American soldiers in the bar, he’s flirting with them. They’re flirting with him. And then they basically, if I have it right, I think ask him, like, well, you know, like, you know, basically, like, how much will you pay us to have sex with us? And it’s like, no, no, no, no, that’s not how it’s supposed to work, you know? And so everything has been sort of taken from him and his understanding of the world. And I and I found that, yeah, pretty, pretty affecting even though, of course it’s over the top leak anyway there are fun peril and you’ve sort of got, you know, the son of southern Italy and then the subterranean subway station of mid seventies Munich. So, you know, you can kind of toggle between these. Between these, no. Yeah. Plus the mud baths.
S1: Plus the mother. Jared, thank you so much for coming on the show. It’s been awesome having you.
S3: It was great to be with both of you.
S1: And yeah, thanks. And we’ll be back on Saturday with a normal slate money.