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The Two Faces of January: Designing the Title Sequences via The Morrison Studio #book2movie

Just a couple more weeks until The Two Faces of January comes out in limited release.  I liked the book A LOT  and I'm counting the days until I can see the movie starring Viggo Mortensen, Kirsten Dunst, and the exciting Oscar Isaac. The Patricia Highsmith novel about a couple who become involved with a young American expat of questionable values - but look who's talking; neither Colette (Kirsten Dunst) or McFarland (Viggo Mortensen) are exactly weighed down by their scruples - was both seductive and thrilling. Hossein Amini, the screenwriter of Drive, wrote the screenplay and also directed this one so I'm more than curious to see how he handled Highsmith's cat and mouse game plot. 

Today I wanted to share the process of creating the title sequence for the film. While many movies seem to launch into the film while rolling the opening credits simultaneously, (a design choice in itself) I'm intrigued by those specially designed title sequences that add to the experience and help establish the tone. Think those amazing title sequences for the Bond films or the attention-getting titles for David Fincher's adaptation of The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo. As I recall that title sequence got a lot more love than Fincher's film.

For The Two Faces of January, The Richard Morrison Studio was tasked with the job; they've done title sequences for a vast amount of films including many other bookish movie projects - [A Long Way Down, Half a Yellow Sun, The Constant Gardener, High Fidelity, Seven Years in Tibet, and Now Is Good - based on Before I Die by Jenny Downham  which I wrote about a couple of years back.  That's the book and movie I think other fans of The Fault in Our Stars will love as well. As an example, I've posted the opening title sequence, for Now, Is Good starring Dakota Fanning and Jeremy Irving (War Horse, Great Expectations, The Railway Man).

But back to The Two Faces of January. I found Dean Wares, The Morrison Studio artist/designer who did the line illustrations for Now Is Good, on Twitter, and Dean suggested I might enjoy this nifty blog post on the process of creating the titles for The Two Faces of January. You all know I eat this stuff up and yes Dean, I did enjoy it! I'm psyched to share it with you guys too. 

I've cut and pasted it from their blog, leaving it in their format so there's no confusion as to who wrote the material. They did. And while we're on the subject of giving credit where credit is due, I grabbed my main graphic of the pulp fiction book covers from their site as well. 

A thriller centred on a con artist, his wife, and a stranger who try to flee a foreign country after one of them is caught up in the murder of a police officer. The film is based on the 1964 novel by Patricia Highsmith, and is already being described as one of the most beautiful and enigmatic thrillers to be hitting the cinemas. Dean and I, along with the rest of the team at The Morrison Studio are delighted to have been able to design and produce the main and end titles for the film.
Work for us began some time ago after meeting with both Hoss and producer Robyn Slovo, who insisted we do the titles after attending a screening for HBO’s Muhammad Ali’s Greatest Fight, directed by Stephen Frears. Robyn liked our title sequence for the film so much, she requested the meeting to discuss what we could do for their new film.
The Two Faces of January Titles Mood Board
So we set out researching the genre in the time period of the film, along with book jackets from Patricia Highsmith’s books as reference. It became apparent that typography and the way we set it was going to be the main focus for us. But we were keen to also see if there was a graphical way we could introduce the first few credits before the opening live action shots. So we started to explore various styles and colours to get the right look we were after.
The Two Faces of January Title Design
From our research at the beginning, it became clear that ‘circles’ was a good direction to start. With the gift of Working Titles’ animated logo leading us into the first credits, it naturally felt right to evolve the style of the sequence from their logo. Combining the right colour palette with the right typeface suitable to the genre, we developed moon shape slithers to slowly rotate concentrically. Then we placed the titles in the negative spaces to create a design based on crime novel book jackets of the 1960’s. The circles were also a good metaphor for the three key characters, who’s romantic journey of deceit and deception would take them full circle to tragic circumstances.
The Two Faces of January Title Design
The creative process however, twisted and turned – a lot like the plot of the film. And as the film’s editing changed, we needed to rethink the titles to something more simpler, yet still stylish. Which will be revealed when you see the film. We kept the colour palette and the typestyle, and we are very pleased with the way it all looks. As simple as it might be… we have a look which compliments the film very well.
We hope you enjoy, and we look forward to sharing our title sequence with you in the very near future.
Note: All images remain the property of their respective owners. Copyrights apply.
At this point are you looking forward to seeing the title sequence as much as I am? I'll post them as soon as they post 'em.