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Adapting Miss Highsmith - season of Patricia Highsmith film adaptations

01 July 2016

From July to September QUAD explores cinematic versions of Patricia Highsmith's work, from the popular Strangers On A Train and The Talented Mr Ripley, to rarely seen gems like The Cry Of The Owl and Enough Rope

Patricia Highsmith is one of the most adapted-for-cinema authors of the mid to late 20th Century. Although working specifically in crime fiction, the artistry and intelligence she brought to her work is widely considered to have transcended the genre and rival that of mainstream literature. Highsmith was an American who lived most of her life in Europe, where she enjoyed success largely denied her at home. 


Strangers On A Train is often referred to as Alfred Hitchcock’s return to form after a series of critical and commercial disappointments. Co-written by Raymond Chandler, Strangers On A Train was adapted from Highsmith’s debut novel, published just a couple of months after her 29th birthday in 1950. Robert Walker and Farley Granger play Bruno and Guy, two young men whose chance meeting on a train journey leads to a supposedly fool-proof murder swap as Bruno agrees to kill Guy’s wife if Guy disposes of Bruno’s father.

Enough Rope (Le Meurtrier) is the big screen version of Highsmith’s ‘The Blunderer’ from director Claude Autant-Lara and his regular screenwriters Jean Aurenche and Pierre Bost. Shot in glorious monochrome ‘scope, it stars a pre-Goldfinger Gert Frobe as boorish bookseller Melchior Kimmel. After seeming to escape justice for killing his wife, Kimmel comes to the attention of philandering husband Walter Saccard (Maurice Ronet). When Saccard’s own spouse Clara (Yvonne Furneaux) comes to a tragic end, the police are quick to link the two deaths.

Deep Water 
(Eaux Profondes) from 1981 is directed by Michel Deville in a dark humoured version of Highsmith’s 1957 novel. Middle aged perfumer Vic Allen (Jean-Louis Trintigant) lives on the island of Jersey with his young wife Melanie (Isabelle Huppert) and their daughter Marion (Sandrine Kljajic). Melanie embarks on a string of extra-marital flirtations, all with her husband’s apparent approval, but mild-mannered, chess-playing Vic soon has murder on his mind. 

The Talented Mr Ripley, from 1999, was directed by Anglo-Italian filmmaker Anthony Minghella after his Oscar success for The English Patient. The book first introduced Tom Ripley, casting Matt Damon as the protagonist opposite Jude Law and Gwyneth Paltrow. “I loved the tone of the novel” he said, “airless, alienated, uncomfortable, claustrophobic, lonely and also quite harsh.” 

The Cry Of The Owl (Le Cri Du Hibou) again teams Highsmith with French Director Claude Chabrol, and although Highsmith herself considered The Cry Of The Owl a lesser novel, Chabrol recognised its great power. The film centres on the unusual relationship between Robert (Christophe Malavoy) and Juliette (Mathilda May), which develops after Robert, a draughtsman and part time artist, admits to having spied on her for several months.

Strangers On A Train (PG) screens at QUAD from Sunday 10th to Thursday 14th July

Enough Rope (cert 15 with English subtitles) screens at QUAD on Sunday 28th July at 2:00pm

Deep Water (cert 15 with English subtitles) screens at QUAD from Sunday 21st to Thursday 25th August (excluding Mon 22nd & Tues 23rd)

The Talented Mr Ripley (15) screens at QUAD from Sunday 4th to Tuesday 6th September

The Cry Of The Owl (certificate 15 with English subtitles) screens at QUAD from Sunday 18th to Tuesday 20th September

QUAD Cinema ticket prices: £8.20 or £7.00 concessions.