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The Painted Veil has all of the elements a viewer looks for in a period
piece set during the time of British colonial rule. Beautiful scenery
and costumes, a cast of thousands, and enough background information to
make you feel you are more educated about a time and place than you
were before you saw the movie.
What this film offers the fortunate viewer that many other movies of its kind do not, are lead characters you can actually empathize with and grow to care about. "Walter" and "Kitty" are far more likable and worth rooting for than- I don't know, let's say- Ralph Fiennes and Kristin Scott Thomas in the English Patient (see? I don't even remember their characters' names.) The movie's tagline- "Sometimes the greatest journey is the distance between two people" succinctly points to the heart of this film, and what makes it work so well; the journey of a couple who married for the wrong reasons towards true intimacy with each other.
On one level, the plot is so simple and straightforward that a one line summary gives the whole story away, and for that reason, I will refrain from providing that information as much as possible. It is enough to know that it is the story of The Fanes- Walter, the shy, bookish bacteriologist, and Kitty, the shallow, haughty young woman he becomes infatuated in and persuades to marry him. Walter takes Kitty to Shanghai, where he works in a government lab. Circumstances lead Walter to re-locate them to a more remote area of China in the throes of a cholera epidemic. It is in this setting that the parallel stories unfold; the story of a doctor and his wife living in the house of a dead missionary's family as the doctor tries to get control of the conditions responsible for the epidemic, and the story of the couple's journey towards re-discovering each other.
The impressive skill that Ms. Watts and Mr. Norton bring to their work truly makes you believe that that the first challenge- combating cholera amid colonial unrest and nationalist hostilities is easier than the task of repairing a damaged marriage, and with each uneasy glance and every unsaid word, you feel what these two people feel. And that is the beauty of The Painted Veil. Fans of Ms. Watts and Mr. Norton will have reason to rejoice- this is a performance unlike any I have ever seen Ms. Watts give. There is nothing of what was becoming her trademark "emotionally fragile woman in shambles" persona on display here. And what of Edward Norton? Well, after his turn in The Illusionist earlier in the year and now "Walter Fane," all I can say is, move over, Ralph Fiennes- there's a new sexy "repressed, stiff-upper-lipped, sensually simmering under the surface" leading man in town.
The Painted Veil is an intelligently adapted, well-directed film with two charismatic, award-worthy lead performances and a strong supporting cast, including Liev Schreiber, Diana Rigg, and most notably Toby Jones as the Fanes' neighbor. It is also wonderfully entertaining, and a good introduction to the period piece/historical epic genre some viewers have been avoiding due to fear of suffocation.
My girlfriend and I went to a free movie screening - you know, the kind
they pass out flyers for. In our case, it was an offer from a survey
I can't say enough about how much we loved this film. The cinematography was absolutely stunning. The story was compelling and heart-wrenching and masterfully portrayed by both Ed Norton and Naomi Watts.
I was a little leery at first when I realized that Ed Norton was going to have to use an English accent throughout the film. But to my untrained ear, it sounded very authentic and did not detract from the film at all.
My friend and I have been looking out for The Painted Veil ever since we saw it. Meanwhile, it's already almost November and we haven't heard anything about its release.
We both strongly recommend that you see this movie when it comes out. You won't be disappointed. (By the way, there were some men in the audience and they also thought it was excellent, so it's not necessarily a chick flick.")
Naomi Watts is every bit as good as Garbo was in the 1934 version, and Ed Norton is outstanding. Great supporting cast as well - Diana Rigg is almost unrecognizable as a Mother Superior, and Liev Schreiber is, as always, terrific as a slimy lowlife. Based on one of Somerset Maugham's best stories, this is a movie that will satisfy anyone looking for an old-fashioned, romantic drama about love lost and love earned. The social quandary of British women after the first World War, which created a generation of unwilling spinsters, is taken as seriously by the filmmakers as the emergence of a new China standing up to its Colonial oppressors. Watts' character's journey from spoiled, selfish Daddy's girl in 1920's fun-loving London to a mature woman in a deprived, cholera-infested third-world country is harrowing.
I think is the tone of the film and by that I mean everything from
the cinematography to the dialogue the music and, most of all, the
nuanced performances which, because it is so consistent and so
consistently sublime renders the film far apart from the ordinary.
I was interested to see that Naomi Watts and Edward Norton produced this film. No matter which of them (or, for that matter, any one of the film's fine cast) is on the screen, we are fully involved: they invite us into their story, they invite us to care.
Even if one were to strip away the performances and the story there is still the sheer beauty of the Chinese countryside, filmed to perfection.
Just go, and see for yourself.
Such a level of intimacy between character and viewer is so seldom
achieved, that I could not help but be overwhelmed by it. I was moved
and shattered by how well I knew these characters, how much I
commiserated and empathized for them, and how deeply involved I was in
their anger, fears, and love.
The camera often loomed within a dark room, filled only with soft light and the characters clothed in light-colored costume. This ciaroscuro, contrast between light and shadow, created elegance and simplicity that is nothing short of beautiful. Most incredible of all were the zoom shots onto a particular character's face or eyes, emphasizing the sweat on his/her brow or a particularly telling expression on his/her face.
The musical score was very powerful and in-tune with the story told and the amazing characterizations.
I simply LOVED this film. If you are interested in a slow-moving, deep and emotionally stirring film, The Painted Veil is just that film!
John Curran's nearly pitch perfect film adaptation of W. Somerset
Maugham's "The Painted Veil" begins slowly and patiently, with
leisurely flashbacks that elliptically bring us to a singularly absurd
predicament: circa 1925, a British doctor (Edward Norton in his second
romantic lead following "The Illusionist") has brought his lovely young
wife (an entrancing Naomi Watts) into the middle of a Chinese cholera
epidemic purely out of spite. It's a wickedly clever little set-up that
becomes increasingly more complex and absorbing.
The note-perfect and delicately layered performances of Watts and Norton, two thespians typically acclaimed for their edgy and independent work and playing against type, are anchored with the literary genius of Maugham and Curran's keen eye and steady hand behind the camera. It's all perfectly accentuated by the brilliantly subversive music score by Alexandre Desplat (doing his best work since "Birth"). These cleverly designed elements coalesce deliciously into a fully fleshed-out whole, and allow "The Painted Veil" to grow in your mind organically and slowly slip under your skin like an infectious disease.
Ron Nyswaner does a great job of translating Maugham's writing to the screen. Virtually nothing is lost. That keen British wit, the dramatic sense of irony, and the sincere exploration of many heady themes including loveless marriages, adultery, imperialism, charity, religion, and redemption are all captured beautifully by director Curran and screenwriter Nyswaner. Watts and Norton are given plenty to chew on, not only great lines, but great scenes full of lush scenery, and beautiful and textured visual details that serve as perfect backdrops for their complex and unpredictable relationship.
Back in the heyday of Merchant-Ivory, it seemed like this type of literary minded period-piece was a dime a dozen. There hasn't been a hugely successful film of this type since 1996's "The English Patient." We haven't seen a worthwhile film in this genre since Neil Jordon's underrated "The End of the Affair" in 1999, which not coincidentally was an adaptation of one of the great novels from Maugham's fellow Brit and contemporary, Graham Greene, and addressed many of the same themes.
What "The Painted Veil" lacks in epic sweep it makes up for in scores with its nuanced performances and subversive outlook on romance and true love. Its finely landscaped images of China are transfixing, but it's the look on Norton's face when he realizes the woman his wife has become, and the glimmer of a tear forming in Watts' eye when she realizes what she's done that will haunt you.
What an excellent movie - really exceptional. Norton and Watts are so
believable and the supporting cast are amazing as well. Sets, scenery,
music, and costumes are dead on. Character development and evolution
make these characters well rounded and memorable.
The story is so realistic that it makes one wonder if it isn't based in fact rather than fiction, and the feelings of the time (hatred for imperialistic foreigners) is documented accurately. The only negative thing I can say is that there was a point when editing needed to be tighter because the movie dragged a bit in defining Kitty's boredom and isolation. The audience got the message much earlier. But this was only a brief irritation because the movie was so fascinating.
The movie does deviate from the novel in that the ending has changed somewhat, but few people have probably read this novel and most won't even notice. It's a longer than average movie and will probably play better in Europe than America. But for the thinking crowd, it's an absolute must see.
Greetings again from the darkness. This is a surprisingly wonderful
adaptation of the W Somerset Maugham novel. Maugham passed away many
years ago, but in his time was an incredibly famous and popular
playwright and novelist. His best known work is probably "The Razor's
Edge". Part of the surprise is the beauty of the film since it is
directed by John Curran, who has no directing credits to his name since
1995's excellent "Babe, the pig". Curran's eye and talent are on full
display here with the aesthetics of 1920's China and the devastation of
The story is simple, but oh so elegant. Edward Norton and Naomi Watts are a very odd couple whom circumstances bring to an ill-conceived marriage. They are quite the odd couple and not the least bit charming together, even in the good moments. Norton stumbles on an affair between Watts and Liev Schreiber and the next thing we know Norton and Watts are on a two week journey into the depths of a Chinese jungle where a devastating cholera epidemic is occurring. The horrible situation brings out the best in each as people and finally as a couple. Along the way, their lives are impacted by two rather odd acquaintances, Toby Jones (off his fine turn as Truman Capote) and the long lost Diana Rigg as the Mother Superior at the local orphanage.
The story is tight, interesting and believable ... all signs of a terrific writer. The acting is worthy of such fine material and direction. Mr. Norton is wonderful as the quietly simmering bacteriologist who lacks interpersonal skills and warmth until the tragic environment brings about self-discovery. Ms. Watts continues her amazing run of top-caliber performances and is one of our top 3 actresses today. She is so subtle at times that it is easy to take her skills for granted. Mr. Schreiber, Mr. Jones and Ms. Rigg are all excellent in their roles and lets hope that Ms. Rigg will continue to bless us with her screen magic. It has been 40 years since she was the sexy Emma Peel from "The Avengers", but her presence on the screen is very welcome and needed.
There is a haunting score that continues throughout the film and some tremendous piano work credited to Lang Lang. The mood of the music and the film setting work together to deliver the effect of reading the novel as we watch the film. Quite a knockout for director Curran, who hopefully will not now disappear for the next decade!
Set in China in the 1920s during a cholera epidemic and the nationalist uprising, the film explores the stormy relationship of a dry British doctor and his seemingly incompatible fun-loving wife. They interact with engaging characters that include French nuns, British expatriates and a Chinese doctor and military officer. The tension is increased by the ever-present threat of death from the epidemic and the political and military unrest that is about to explode. The film is shot with a hazy green look that makes the lush Chinese countryside even more mysterious and beautiful. The film is accompanied by well-chosen music with a particularly gripping main theme by Satie. Norton and Watts do a splendid job in the leading roles.
If you're an Edward Norton fan, (and I am) then you will have a fine time seeing this movie. Norton's blistering focus and concentration serve him well here. Naomi Watts is also fine, as is Toby Jones. It's nice to see Diana Rigg again, too. Sure it's melodramatic, but what's wrong with that? When done well, melodrama is a great treat. And this is done VERY well. It sure beats the dreadful Seventh Sin of the 50's and even tops the Garbo version from the 30's. Filming in China adds a lot, and the really beautiful cinematography helps immeasurably. With all the many good movies out there this time of year, I fear this one might get overlooked--and that will be a shame.
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