When a forceful directorial personality like Wim Wenders adapts a book, the last thing one should expect is a respectful, faithful rendering. And that is indeed not what you get with this radical version of the third of Patricia Highsmith’s five Ripley novels, originally titled ‘Ripley’s Game’.
The American friend of the title is Ripley himself, played here by maverick actor/director Dennis Hopper, living in Hamburg and working a scam based on forged artworks. Bruno Ganz is Zimmermann, a terminally ill picture framer who becomes drawn into Ripley’s schemes.
Wenders delivers an action-packed thriller in which ‘who did what to whom’ is less important than ‘who seems to be what he is not’. His cast includes an array of film directors playing villains, including American auteurs Nicholas Ray and Samuel Fuller and cult French helmsman Jean Eustache. This is arguably the best of the five Ripley films and certainly the most unusual.