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It Cries Out for a Good Movie Director
on September 24, 2007
"The Two Faces of January" a psychological thriller by Patricia Highsmith, American author who was expert in that genre -- "Strangers On A Train,""The Talented Mr. Ripley --" was published in 1964. It's set largely in Greece, particularly Athens, also Crete, and does an excellent job of giving the reader the look and flavor of that country. It also drops into Paris, and gives the reader a good picture of that city at that time. In fact, as it is set among people we might once have known, who drink and smoke heavily without even thinking about it, it gives the reader a surprisingly accurate picture of its early 1960's era.
The plot concerns one Rydal Keener, young American hanging around Europe, collecting his mail at American Express, hoping something memorable will happen before his money runs out. He trips over it in a top Athens hotel, the King's Palace, where a rich, crooked American businessman, Chester MacFarland, has accidentally killed a Greek policeman come to call on him. Rydal, a graduate of Yale Law School, had issues with his recently-deceased father, a stuffy Harvard professor, and McFarland somehow reminds the young man of his father, whose funeral he had refused to attend, gone bad. The young man gets involved with the older one, and his pretty young wife Colette, helping them to hide the body, get new fake passports, and flee Athens. Rydal never entirely understands why he has chosen to get involved with Chester, though the author makes that pretty clear to us. However, the author leaves us on our own when it comes to figuring out Chester's relationship with Rydal.
"Two Faces" will be a bit dated and dusty for most readers. It really cries out for a good contemporary movie director to blow off the cobwebs and capture the clever plot at its heart.