Music, Sound, and the Moving Image

The Musical Mr Ripley

Closeting a Character in the 1950s and a Film in the 1990s

Music, Sound, and the Moving Image (2012), 6, (2), 185–207.

Abstract

In his 1999 film adaptation of Patricia Highsmith's novel The Talented Mr. Ripley, writer/director Anthony Minghella used musical instruments, musical taste, and scenes of musical performance and listening to create a film about the American gay male experience in a particular time and place: Italy in the late 1950s. Attention to the film's use of classical music highlights Minghella's considerable feat - making a major motion picture depicting an era in modern gay history rarely presented to so wide an audience. But when it came to selling the film, Minghella's Ripley was marketed as a generic heterosexual thriller that was not about homosexuality at all. Analysis of the film's publicity materials, trailers, press packet, soundtrack CD, published screenplay, and DVD commentary show how this tale of the closet was itself closeted for the movie-going public at the turn of the twenty-first century. Silencing certain types of music and building a peculiar rhetorical argument about the role of music in the film proved central to the effort to closet Ripley, a project in which Minghella himself participated.

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Details

Author details

Decker, Todd