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THE PAINTED VEIL

Director: JOHN CURRAN

USA • 2006 • COLOUR • ANAMORPHIC • 124 MIN.


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This third film version of Somerset Maugham’s 1925 novel, directed by John Curran, is ripe with stunning Chinese landscapes and a wonderful performance by Naomi Watts as Kitty Fane, the aging English socialite who must put herself in strange and turbulent surroundings before she finds her true self. After pressure from her wealthy parents to settle down, Kitty (Naomi Watts) marries mild-mannered bacteriologist Walter (Edward Norton), despite her lack of love for him. Shortly after their vows, he takes her to Shanghai, where she immediately has an affair with Charles Townsend (Liev Shrieber), an English Vice Consul. Walter becomes aware of Kitty’s indiscretion and promptly whisks her away to the mountain village of Mei-tan-fu, where they befriend another English expat, the secretly decadent Deputy Commissioner Waddington (Toby Jones, in an extremely likable performance) and the convent’s Mother Superior (Diana Rigg). Walter begins working to hold an encroaching cholera epidemic at bay — leaving Kitty to ponder her role in the situation as death looms over the village like a specter. A labour of love that took the better part of a decade for producer Norton and screenwriter Ron Nyswaner, The Painted Veil is visually sumptuous production that employed a primarily Chinese crew on its intense location shoots. Norton’s passion for the material is on full display, as he turns in another solid performance. Watts, however, is the heart of the film.

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