Ripley effects of cinematic brilliance still felt 20 years on

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Ripley effects of cinematic brilliance still felt 20 years on

Though critics sneered at the film upon release, some understood they were in the presence of greatness

Alexander Larman

On March 24 1997, Anthony Minghella reflected on the extraordinary journey that he had undertaken over the previous two decades. He had gone from being a PhD student and lecturer at the University of Hull specialising in Samuel Beckett, to that night winning an Oscar for his 1996 film The English Patient.

Thanks to then influential and powerful producer Harvey Weinstein, he was in the rare position that any truly successful filmmaker can be: the opportunity to make a personal picture with the enormous resources of a Hollywood studio behind him.

Others in his position succeeded admirably; some failed dismally. Michael Cimino’s all-consuming failure with 1980’s Heaven’s Gate, after his Oscar triumph in 1978 with The Deer Hunter, brought down an entire studio. Yet Minghella had no such vainglorious ambitions. He wanted to make the definitive film of one of his favourite books, Patricia Highsmith’s The Talented Mr Ripley, and to transform a clever, chilling novel into something approaching great art. And he succeeded admirably...

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