The Two Faces Of January New York première

On the red carpet with Hossein Amini, Kirsten Dunst, Emma Ostilly and Eamonn Bowles.

by Anne-Katrin Titze

Viggo Mortensen, Kirsten Dunst, director of The Two Faces of January, Hossein Amini, with Magnolia Pictures co-president Eamonn Bowles at the New York premiere
Viggo Mortensen, Kirsten Dunst, director of The Two Faces of January, Hossein Amini, with Magnolia Pictures co-president Eamonn Bowles at the New York premiere Photo: Anne-Katrin Titze

The New York première of Hossein Amini's debut feature The Two Faces Of January based on the Patricia Highsmith novel, starring Oscar Isaac, Viggo Mortensen, and Kirsten Dunst at the Sunshine Landmark Cinema was hosted by Kate and Laura Mulleavy of Rodarte with Derek Blasberg, Editor-at-Large of Harper's Bazaar.

The Two Faces of January director Hossein Amini: "I always think Vertigo is the film that talked to me."
The Two Faces of January director Hossein Amini: "I always think Vertigo is the film that talked to me." Photo: Anne-Katrin Titze

Amini was the screenwriter of Nicolas Winding Refn's Drive, starring Ryan Gosling, Christina Hendricks, Bryan Cranston, Carey Mulligan, Oscar Isaac, Albert Brooks, and Iain Softley's The Wings Of The Dove which starred Helena Bonham Carter, Charlotte Rampling, Elizabeth McGovern and Michael Gambon.

Among those attending were Magnolia Pictures co-founder Eamonn Bowles, Michael Stipe, Sonic Youth's Kim Gordon, Chloe Malle, Alice Callahan, Stephanie LaCava, Vanessa Carlton, Rachael Emrich, Julia Loomis, Christian Campbell, America Olivo, Cory Kennedy, Thomas Matthews, Sofia Sanchez Barrenechea, Hannah Ferguson, Vanessa Carlton, Lily Kwong, Timo Wieland, Jodie Snyder, Emma Ostilly, Carly Cushnie, Alexandria Morgan, Sophia Sanchez, Victoria Traina, and Alexandra Krausten.

Two Faces Of January takes us on an adventurous trip to 1962 Greece, with Chester MacFarland (Viggo Mortensen) and his much younger wife Colette (Kirsten Dunst). During a visit to the Acropolis, they notice and are noticed by American tour guide Rydal (Oscar Isaac) who, despite his, or because of his, Ivy League background, decided to make a living from cheating young, female tourists out of their dollars.

Emma Ostilly on the red carpet: "The Devil Wears Prada was definitely inspiration for fashion for me."
Emma Ostilly on the red carpet: "The Devil Wears Prada was definitely inspiration for fashion for me." Photo: Anne-Katrin Titze

His tricks have the sophistication of what Ryan O'Neal's character taught his daughter Tatum's Addie Pray in Peter Bogdanivich's Paper Moon. Flirting with danger soon reaches another level, when Rydal gets deeply involved with the beautifully dressed couple. Their backstory is ominous, their present precarious, and although they look as though they smell of lemon, thyme, and fine leather, at least one of them has a very rotten core.

Rather than tricks of the plot, it is the visual style Amini revels in - a screen-writer finally allowed into the candy store of images. He indulges the eyes in an elegant creamy citrus dress, the perfect high and low sandals, and a simple local golden snake bracelet for the lady, exquisitely selected by costume designer Steven Noble. Chester gets to put his vanilla white summer suit to the test, fleeing to Crete after a murderous encounter and into the ruins of Knossos.

Rydal's late estranged father, a Harvard professor of archeology, taught his son a different language each month, which comes in handy, when the journey eventually leads them to Istanbul. A bus trip may remind you of Hitchcock's Torn Curtain, the toying with a lighter of Strangers On A Train.

On the red carpet, I talked style with Amini and Kirsten Dunst. The Rodarte sisters, Kate and Laura Mulleavy, have often displayed their love of cinema in the clothes they designed, sometimes literally so, as with their Fall 2014 Star Wars dresses, or the New York Herald Tribune T-shirts for the 50th anniversary of Jean-Luc Godard's À Bout De Souffle (Breathless 1960).

Viggo Mortensen and Kirsten Dunst on the The Two Faces of January red carpet: "There was a girl in a dress that was half blue and half red lace."
Viggo Mortensen and Kirsten Dunst on the The Two Faces of January red carpet: "There was a girl in a dress that was half blue and half red lace." Photo: Anne-Katrin Titze

Anne-Katrin Titze: In films based on Patricia Highsmith novels, the look of things has always been of great importance. Are there any specific role models you had in mind for the style of your film? Any movies from the early Sixties you particularly like?

Hossein Amini: I love European cinema of the Sixties. Plein Soleil (1960), the French Talented Mr Ripley [with Alain Delon directed by René Clément] was a huge influence. [Federico Fellini's] La Dolce Vita (1960) was a big influence in terms of that that was exactly the same period. I watched a lot of Antonioni movies because again the styling was very much of the period. And I just love Italian movies of that period particularly. I watch them again and again.

Liam Gillick, star of Joanna Hogg's Exhibition, recently had also professed to me his adoration for Clément's cool thriller and Maurice Ronet's performance.

AKT: Was it the style that attracted you to this subject for your first movie?

HA: The style is so important because it's about appearances. The movie is all about what's on the outside hiding what's on the inside.

AKT: That's a Highsmith specialty.

Rodarte Luke Skywalker Star Wars dress - Kate and Laura Mulleavy, have often displayed their love of cinema in the clothes they designed.
Rodarte Luke Skywalker Star Wars dress - Kate and Laura Mulleavy, have often displayed their love of cinema in the clothes they designed. Photo: Anne-Katrin Titze

HA: Yes, it's very Highsmith. The idea that you see this golden couple who are beautifully dressed coming out of the Acropolis for the first time. Then gradually, as the movie continues, they unravel as characters. The clothes get dirtier and the styling is shabbier. It felt like the clothes were an important part of their journey.

AKT: How did you work with your costume designer Steven Noble?

HA: With Steven Noble? I just gave him a lot of film references and we talked. Again, what was amazing was how I love the white suit in Plein Soleil that the Dicky Greenleaf character [Maurice Ronet] has. With it, it had a navy shirt. And Steven said, "no, let's make it a light blue shirt for Chester." So we were just throwing things around. And it's great as a writer to be finally able to have a say in those things.

AKT: Do you remember the first time you noticed costume design in a movie?

HA: I always think Vertigo is the film that talked to me. And that was a film about appearances as well. A combination of the clothes that Kim Novak wears and also her hairstyle - I remember shots from behind where you can see her hair very vividly. And Marnie was another Hitchcock film where the costumes really struck me. And then the coolness of La Dolce Vita, because everything is so beautiful and elegant, hiding, again, this corruption underneath.

Next, I chatted style with Kirsten Dunst, dressed in Chanel Couture on the red carpet that evening. A slight misunderstanding, turned into both of us professing our love for the Peter Pan collar.

Sonic Youth's Kim Gordon on the The Two Faces Of January red carpet
Sonic Youth's Kim Gordon on the The Two Faces Of January red carpet Photo: Anne-Katrin Titze

Anne-Katrin Titze: Style is obviously very important in Two Faces Of January. Do you remember the first time that you noticed costumes in a movie and thought oh, I love this?

Kirsten Dunst: You know what's funny? What came to mind just now - there was a Thierry Mugler ad when I was younger. There was a girl in a dress that was half blue and half red lace. I was like, I love that color combo together. That was kind of my first thing. My mom always had a good collection. She lived in Europe for ten years and she always had good clothes, my mom.

AKT: Any movie clothes that impressed you?

KD: When I was young young? I mean, how young are we talking about here? What age?

AKT: Any! (Kirsten hears Annie)

KD: Annie! Annie was like a huge style influence. I could still wear little Peter Pan collars like Annie.

Anne-Katrin Titze: Was there a movie that made you want to dress a certain way?

Emma Ostilly: The Devil Wears Prada was definitely inspiration for fashion for me. I felt like going shopping after watching that movie.

AKT: Any particular outfit?

EO: I think when Anne Hathaway wears her thigh-high leather boots. I bought those a couple of years later when I was older. When I was little I liked big gowns and really girly stuff.

Before the screening, Magnolia Pictures co-founder Eamonn Bowles introduced the director and his stars and reminded us of Patricia Highsmith's filmic legacy.

Eamonn Bowles: Very specifically literary, there've been a number of really great film adaptations - Purple Noon, The Talented Mr. Ripley, Strangers on a Train and tonight we'll see an additional film added.

Hossein Amini: As a first time director you are always at the mercy of very very powerful and talented actors. They could have made me feel very small and stupid but they were extraordinarily kind and generous.

The Magnolia Pictures after party was held at the Jazz Room at The General on the Bowery sponsored by Tequila Patrón and EMM Group.

The Two Faces of January opens in the US on September 26.

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