Delon is perfect simply because he is so desirable, as the
wealthy Philippe Greanleaf (Maurice Ronet), not a bad looker himself, who obviously is equally self-involved (the director keeps their shirts unbuttoned for most of the film). The bond between them, at least at first and despite their open womanizing in Rome, is clearly homoerotic; they are beautiful men who like to hang out together, even if they might never come to terms with their hidden sexuality. Instead of making love, their sexual tensions are expressed in their mockery of, and in Greanleaf’s case, abuse of, one another.
If Ripley is evil, Greanleaf is detestable, which is how we come to side with the murderer as opposed to the victim. In the first scenes of Clément’s stunningly scenic film, the playboy Greanleaf has not only skipped out, without telling his “serious” girlfriend, Marge Duval (Marie Laforêt) that he is traveling to Rome, but treats Ripley like a lackey, forcing him to pay for their meal on the Felliniesque Via Veneto (where Marcello Mastriano hang out in La Dolce Vita, a film that shared with this one the music of Nino Rota). In short, they have run off together under the guise of a wild weekend, which consists primarily of conning a blind man, whose cane they take away as an award for Greanleaf’s charity, and lying to and basically kidnapping a woman, in order to publicly kiss and grope her in a kind of buddy gang-bang. It’s quite clear that they are not really interested in the middle-aged woman but in the sexual titillation of watching each other make love to her. When the always perceptive Ripley suggests that Greanleaf might pacify his back-home girlfriend, Marge, with a book on Fra Angelico, on whom she apparently is writing a book, he sends his lackey off to purchase the would-be gift of reconciliation.