The misty, cold universe of American novelist Patricia Highsmith, an invariably complicated, passionate and obsessive world, is once again cast in a Mediterranean light.
More than 50 years ago, a young Alain Delon strolled the backstreets of old Rome and Naples as well as along the beaches of Taormina, where, under the guidance of director Rene Clement, he developed the best – until now – cinematic Tom Ripley (Highsmith’s most famous character) in the 1960 drama “Plein soleil” (Purple Noon).
Now Hossein Amini – screenwriter of “The Wings of the Dove,” “Jude” and “Drive,” among others – has adapted and directed “The Two Faces of January.” A lesser-known Highsmith work, the novel and the movie are set in Athens and Crete, while a few scenes were shot in Istanbul, Turkey.
The result is a formidable mystery which serves as a wink to the genre’s master Alfred Hitchcock (Alberto Iglesias’ original soundtrack contributes to the overall mood in a decisive manner) based on a solid script and impeccable performances, including that by Viggo Mortensen, who is in top cinematic form.
Athens, 1962: Rydal (Oscar Isaac), a young American tourist guide making extra cash by scamming foreigners, befriends a well-off American couple, middle-aged Chester (Mortensen) and his considerably younger wife, Colette (Kirsten Dunst). On his way to the couple’s room one night, Rydal witnesses Chester pulling a private eye’s dead body along the hotel corridor. A major con man, Chester is on the run from his victims. Shortly after, Rydal offers his services to help Chester smooth out his troubles.
When the trio travel to the island of Crete for a few days, a second fatal incident throws the seemingly carefree Rydal into new turmoil.
“The Two Faces of January” – which comes with the right ingredients to become this summer season’s blockbuster: plenty of suspense and a wonderful reconstruction of 1960s Greece – is currently being screened at local cinema theaters.