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The Painted Veil

John Curran

The Painted Veil
Based on the novel of the same name by W. Somerset Maugham, The Painted Veil is the story of bored, spoiled Kitty (Naomi Watts) who, despite an absence of love, marries introverted, awkward bacteriologist Dr. Walter Fane (Edward Norton). She joins him when he returns from England to Shanghai, where he disappears daily into a government laboratory. Trapped in a loveless marriage in the tumultuous China of the mid-í20s, Kitty is bored, adrift and acutely alone. Eventually, she meets a charming British diplomat who represents the only sliver of magnetism in her sterile little world. The Painted Veil is an old-fashioned Hollywood melodrama. Itís the classic kind of star-vehicle period piece thatís hoovered up Oscars for years. Itís also the kind of film thatís had boyfriends and husbands absently squirming next to their sniffling better halves for decades. And guys, this one takes at least 40 minutes before thereís anything real at stake. The film centres on emotionally distant characters sleepwalking through a culture completely alien to them. And the stiffness and aloofness of those characters come dangerously close to leaving the audience emotionally removed from their story. However, The Painted Veil features a well crafted narrative and is shot beautifully in Guilin, the part of China studded with breathtaking limestone mountains captured in hundreds of traditional paintings. Itís well directed, well acted and well written. If Oscar bait is your cup of tea, The Painted Veil is a suitably steeped mug of Orange Pekoe. (Warner)
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