COURTESY MAGNOLIA PICTURESViggo Mortensen

COURTESY MAGNOLIA PICTURESViggo Mortensen

Hossein Amini inspired by Patricia Highsmith in directorial debut

An Oscar nominee for “The Wings of the Dove” as well as the writer of “Drive,” screenwriter Hossein Amini began work on his directing debut of “The Two Faces of January,” adapted from Patricia Highsmith's 1964 novel, with help from Anthony Minghella.

Minghella made a splash with another Highsmith film, “The Talented Mr. Ripley,” in 1999, but when he passed away in 2008, “The Two Faces of January” went into limbo.

“The film was stuck in some sort of legal situation,” says Amini. “Anthony's widow Carolyn and his son Max were generous and gracious and wanted to carry on. They said not to worry about any the legal or the money, just do what Anthony wanted to do – make your first film.”

Although he likes Minghella's film of “The Talented Mr. Ripley,” Amini, in making “Two Faces,” was more inspired by an earlier movie adaptation of “Ripley,” Rene Clement's 1960 “Purple Noon.”

“There's something about the messiness of the film that seemed close to Highsmith,” Amini explains. “She doesn't really analyze. They just behave the way that humans do. The characters' behavior kind of lurches. They like this one moment, and they suddenly change and there's something else, and there's no explanation.”

“The Two Faces of January” tells the story of a con man, Chester MacFarland (Viggo Mortensen), and his wife Colette (Kirsten Dunst), visiting Greece. A sinister intruder catches up with them, and the couple teams up with a swindling tour guide (Oscar Isaac) to escape.

A confessed “film noir nut,” Amini was drawn to the characters because they're normal people.

“They're not brilliant, clever psychopaths. They're not the brightest,” he says. “They're just unlucky. They're drunk and they're jealous. Maybe I'm a bit of a softie when it comes to that, but I like villains having moments of tenderness and humanity.”

But upon test screenings of the movie, he found the audience liked the actors' performances, but didn't much like the characters. So he turned to his composer, Alberto Iglesias.

“I remember saying in frustration, 'I don't care if the audience hates him, I want the music to really be in love with him.’” To make his film more “noirish,” Amini moved the date from 1964 to a few years earlier, before clothing got wild and when life still seemed more mundane. He also reveled in the idea of putting the characters' clean white clothes into some “quite grubby places.”

Yet he weighed all his choices against Highsmith’s original work, calling her, “not just a crime writer, [but] a great American writer.”

IF YOU GO

The Two Faces of January

Starring: Viggo Mortensen, Kirsten Dunst, Oscar Isaac

Written and directed by: Hossein Amini

Rated R

Running time: 1 hour, 36 minutes

artsHossein AminiMoviesPatricia HighsmithTwo Faces of January

If you find our journalism valuable and relevant, please consider joining our Examiner membership program.
Find out more at www.sfexaminer.com/join/

Just Posted

Board of Supervisor President Norman Yee. (Kevin N. Hume/S.F. Examiner)
Supes ban tobacco smoking in apartments but exempt cannabis

San Francisco banned smoking and vaping of tobacco in apartments Tuesday night,… Continue reading

Dr. Grant Colfax and Mayor London Breed said new restrictions could come this week due to rising COVID-19 cases.<ins> (Examiner screenshot)</ins>
Breed: ‘More restrictive action’ needed to slow spread of COVID-19

San Francisco officials said Tuesday tougher restrictions will soon be imposed to… Continue reading

Many landlords fought the proposal requiring them to register properties, calling it an invasion of privacy. 
Kevin N. Hume/
S.F. Examiner
Housing inventory wins unanimous approval from supervisors

Legislation will require landlords to register properties, report vacancies and rents

Harlan Kelly, head of the SFPUC and husband to City Administrator Naomi Kelly (right), faces federal charges for allegedly trading inside information on a city contract in return for a paid family vacation. (Courtesy photo)
Harlan Kelly, head of SFPUC, charged with fraud in widening Nuru scandal

Kelly accused of engaging in corrupt partnership with permit expediter

Jeff Tumlin, director of transportation for the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency, said the agency’s fiscal situation is “far worse” than the worse case scenarios projected back in April. (Kevin N. Hume/S.F. Examiner)
SFMTA prepares for massive potential layoffs as budget crisis continues to build

More than 1,200 full-time jobs on the line as agency struggles to close deficit

Most Read