The Painted Veil

Director: John Curran

I didn’t realize just how enormous of an absence was left in American cinema during Edward Norton’s hiatus from his breakneck schedule until 2006 gave us another glimpse of his sheer chameleon-like nature and undisputed gift for performance with turns in three very different films including Down in the Valley, The Illusionist, and The Painted Veil. When it came time to shoot Philadelphia screenwriter Ron Nyswaner’s adaptation of M. Somerset Maughan’s novel The Painted Veil, he “personally recruited” his ideal co-star Naomi Watts for John Curran’s lush 1920’s period drama, according to IMDB. Although Watts had worked before with director Curran in the very different contemporary marital infidelity drama We Don’t Live Here Anymore, she’s truly memorable in her role as the rebellious Kitty Fane, who is pushed with guilt by her family into marriage with a bacteria and disease specialist she does not love (Norton) and launches into an affair with the dashing and equally married Charlie Townsend (Watts’s real-life love Liev Schreiber) while she is relegated to Shanghai for her husband’s work. After he learns of her indiscretion, William (Norton) offers her divorce with the condition that Townsend split from his wife as well, knowing full well he will not, only to force Kitty along with him to an isolated cholera ridden Chinese village where the two first argue and ignore one another until circumstance and the absence of their fast paced world, with nothing but honesty between them, makes them discover each other's true nature and they fall in love. A beautiful, grand epic in the tradition of Out of Africa, The Painted Veil which earned Nyswaner the National Board of Review Award for his adapted screenplay boasts a gorgeous piano-heavy Golden Globe winning original score by Alexandre Desplat that classical music lovers will immediately want to check out. While the turns by the film’s two leads (and producers) Watts and Norton are classy and appropriate for the time and place, look for a memorable turn by Toby Jones (Truman Capote in last year’s Infamous) as Waddington, their sole friend in the remote locale. While it does end with a heartbreaking conclusion, The Painted Veil is a worthwhile, old-fashioned piece of Hollywood entertainment (although independently funded and filmed) that will delight lovers of classics from yesteryear.

Explore The Painted Veil Soundtrack
Alexandre Michel Desplat, Lang Lang, Prague Symphony Orchestra & Vincent Segal - The Painted Veil