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4.5 out of 5 stars215
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VINE VOICEon 27 March 2008
"The Painted Veil" is an excellent period drama, set in inland China in the early 20th Century. The always excellent Naomi Watts plays a newly married woman who has a passionate affair in Shanghai before being whisked off by her irate husband,a doctor, to a country town being ravaged by a cholera epidemic.The couple settle down to a loveless, boring married life there, however Watts slowly comes to respect and admire her mild mannered husband and a rapprochement beckons."The Painted Veil" is beautifully filmed and well acted by the two leads , Naomi Watts and Edward Norton. It is an engaging story and makes for an entertaining two hours or so.
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on 13 July 2007
I must echo the previous review here. The Painted Veil is a stunning film - beautifully acted with stunning cinematography and above all a wonderful story, full of period detail, tension, drama and emotion. Edward Norton and Naomi Watts are both fantastic and portray the characters with passionate perfection. They are joined by a small but equally excellent supporting cast.

I always think that the sign of a good film or book is when you wonder about the characters at the end of the story or think of how events might have turned out differently for them. I just loved this film and would highly recommend it to those who enjoy a thinking person's love story.
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VINE VOICEon 20 February 2008
I have just finnished watching this film and I already know that it will be one of those that stays with me and I will find myself thinking about again and again. I actually bought it after stumbling across it on Amazon while browsing and was encouraged by the glowing reviews.

The 4 stars are because I did feel that it started a little slowly in terms of I couldn't warm to or root for any of the characters until a good 15-20 minutes into the film. It didn't have that oomph that grips you from the off. And that is the only reason it gets 4 stars - if I had the rate the last 3/4 of the film I would vote 10 stars if I could.

The story (very briefly, as there are plenty of reviews on here that will do the plot far more justice that I can) is about Kitty and Walter who marry in 1923 in London after a very brief meeting and they move to Shanghai where Walter is a scientist. They appear to have little in common and very quickly Kitty starts an affair with a married British ex-pat which Walter finds out about and threatens her with divorce (unheard of in the 20's) unless she goes with him further into mainland China to a small, remote town where there is a cholera epidemic. When the two of them arrive in the small town on the Yangtzee (after 2 weeks travelling) this is where the film really comes into its own.

The backdrop is stunning - breathtaking infact - and the music really sets the pace and mood of the film. Watts and Norton are fantastic in their performances and the whole film - visuals and sound - has a really gentle, almost dreamlike quality to it.

After a slow start, this film has quickly transcended into one that I will highly recommend to everyone. I really hope you enjoy as much as I have.

EDIT: I needed to add this now as I was right, I could not get the film out of my head and have just finnished watching it for the second time in a few days and I have also just started the book. My only regret is that I gave it 4 stars when I now truly believe that it deserves 5. I cannot recommend this film highly enough and it is fast becoming one of my favourite films of all time - there are not many that I can watch over and over but this is one I know I will treasure for a long time.
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VINE VOICEon 20 January 2008
This film caught me by surprise. I hadn't heard much about it, but on a friend's recommendation rented from amazon.

It's an outstanding production. Great location and atmosphere that draws you right in and takes you to the place and period of the story, and in Porter and Watts two fine performances as leading characters that even Maugham would have been proud of.

The score is also excellent. A perfect accompaniment to the film, but a soundtrack that stands up in it's own right too.

The soundtrack won a Golden Globe Award for the film, but I can't believe the film didn't get nominated for any Oscar category at all.

But ignore the Academy. It's one of the best films I've seen for a long time.
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on 23 January 2008
As a Chinese I was skeptical about the artificial setting of a sentimental romance story in an exotic faraway location of rural China in the 20s. Only reading many other praises and reviews prompted me to watch the movie and it proved me totally wrong.

At first glance, it is hugely moving and both Edward Norton and Naomi Watt gave excellent performance showing genuine, convincing characters that I cannot stop help sympathizing, being angry, sad and sometimes happy. The tragic story of deception, forgiveness and painful journey of love and eventual ending of separation depict a huge range of emotion in adversities. Kitty (Naomi)made the mistake of cheating and been punished by Walter(Edward Norton) imposing exile in the cholera-prone rural area.

Not only is it filmed brilliantly, the script is extremely well written, based on the novel by, it shows the natural unfolding of consequences of mistake and misfortune. While Kitty was selfish and naive, she is true to herself, first married Walter only to left her mother then cheated follow her heart. It made clear that she made no real decision by herself throughout the movie. In contrast, Walter decided to punish her, and un-calculatedly so, after an intense period of anger and resentment, they reunited and shared a brief moment of joy until Kitty broke the news of pregnancy from an uncertain father. This emotion roller-coaster carried us to an tragic but the most appropriate ending of the death of Walter. Both characters are fully formed and grown up as the story unfolds.

In short, excellent character and acting, script and directing.

While it does not end in a cheerful note and provide a joyful entertainment, I cannot recommend highly enough for all who like good story and good movie.
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VINE VOICEon 16 July 2012
I read the Somerset Maugham story many years ago, and had forgotten most of it, except the exotic locations. I saw the title and Edward Norton's name. He brings a touch of class to everything he does. I was very impressed by "The illusionist", and this one looked like a similar piece. So I bought the DVD.

It started badly. Like others I was irritated by the character Kitty - a bored, selfish socialite who gets married to escape from her awful mother. She then promptly has an affair. Her punishment is to be reluctantly transported to a remote area of China which is devastated by a cholera epidemic. Just desserts, if a trifle harsh, we think. Surrounded by lush scenery with those amazing pointy hills looming through the mist, all we see is Kitty's petulant tear-stained, horrified face as she is carried (literally) through rice fields full of hostile people, to her destination - a hut with the most basic amenities.

What is going to occupy us for the next two hours? Her husband virtually ignores her, and in any case he is absorbed in dealing with the cholera patients. He is a really buttoned-up character whenever he is in the presence of his wife. Kitty is almost totally isolated except for the eccentric Mr Waddington (played by an excellent Toby Jones). Her despair is so profound, she wants to be struck down by this horrific disease. It looks as if they will all succumb to the fever or be massacred by the local insurgents, and that will be that.

However, a slow and amazing transformation takes place. Kitty (for this is essentially her story) turns out to be far more than we imagined - a person of real guts and inner strength. Hence the "painted veil" of the title. Draw aside the veil to see the real person. Incidentally, Naomi Watts also turned out to be far more of an actress than I had imagined. At this point I can't give the game away, but suffice it to say - stick with this film, you will be totally hooked by the end (and if the end doesn't bring tears to your eyes then you are not a human being).

The soundtrack by Alexandre Desplat fits the story. And ... listen out for the French song "A la claire fontaine" at the end. Beautiful, simple and moving.
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VINE VOICEon 17 March 2008
"The Painted Veil" is a remarkable movie. From the first haunting notes of Eric Satie's "Gnossienne" to the last plaintive chanson in which we hear the voice of Kitty (Naomi Watts) promising never to forget, the viewer will be mesmerized. Music, in fact, is integral to the story: the Satie piece, which recalls the first encounter of Kitty and Walter (Edward Norton) in an elegant London salon, becomes metaphorical of their troubled marriage as she plunks it out on an out-of-tune upright piano in a rundown convent in China of the 1920s.

The beautifully understated performances of Watts and Norton underscore the complexity of Maugham's seemingly simple story. Particularly notable is the poignant performance of Diana Rigg as the elderly Mother Superior whose own marriage to god has become strained by too many years in the unforgiving climate of rural China, ravaged not only by warring factions but also by cholera.

The lush silk dresses worn by Watts evoke a bygone era, and the superb cinematography transforms what one suspects is smog into a seemingly painted backdrop of looming mist-enshrouded crags that appear to hover between earth and sky, just as the fates of the characters hover between life and death.
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on 26 October 2007
Unfortunately I Never read the novel but I found the movie to be impressive. THE PAINTED VEIL tells the story of Kitty Fane (Naomi Watts) trapped in a loveless marriage to biologist husband Walter (Edward Norton.) When she has an affair with English Vice Consul Charlie Townsend (Live Shreiber), Walter takes Kitty into the cholera-ridden areas of central China in the hope of curing both the peasants and his marriage.

The journey of China becomes a metaphor for the pair's deep retreat within themselves. Their relationship has become a cultivated division; the best they manage to muster toward each other is a courteous contempt. Yet the grim discipline demanded of them by the epidemic, and the daily reminder of life's brevity, forces Kitty and Walter to reflect upon their actions. And so the story becomes for them one of discovering their capacity for forgiveness and love. Death, however, stalks close by.

Director Curran manages to coax fine performances from his cast. Watts' Kitty expertly makes the transition from playfulness to gravitas. The sadness in Naomi Watts eyes as she stares upon the cholera stricken children is one of the most memorable scenes. She is one amazing actress and can really express what she feels not only with her dialogue, but with her gestures and facial expressions. Plus continues to be one of the best actors working in Hollywood. Norton's performance is no less masterful. His shy, soulful Walter becomes a wound's scab -- a man so sunk in melancholy and self-loathing as to become dead to himself. Norton's Walter never veers toward self-pity, but manfully "gets on" with things, though with the saddest imaginable eyes. There is excellent support from Schreiber as the slick Townsend, Diana Rigg as a nun toiling amid the cholera outbreak, and Toby Jones as Waddington, a British agent who becomes the Fanes' protector. Curran cleverly condenses passages from the novel into simple shots. An entire scene in which Kitty churlishly mocks the homely sacred art of the plague city's convent is quickly captured by a close-up of a rudely carved Madonna figure with a childishly painted face, which tells us all we need to know about the humble nuns' lives versus the world-weary Kitty's. After the speedy initial set up of the film, its lazy pace may put some people off, but this is a beautifully shot and performed film that is well deserving of your time.
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on 9 September 2007
This movie has some breathtaking scenes and moves along at a pace which captures the story beautifully. The story is probably typical of the position that women found themselves in during the 1920's when they married for all the wrong reasons. However, this film has an unusual twist, shown by the way in which the husband handles the situation when he finds out his wife has been having an affair. Revenge turns to love and this transformation and eventual chemistry between the two characters is again captured beautifully. Well worth a watch and you will be totally lost and captivated by the story and backdrops of the film location.
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This is a review of the film version of "The Painted Veil" and not of Somerset Maugham's 1925 novel which inspired it. Having seen the film I intend to read the book. but I have not yet done so, and am simply assessing the film on its' own merits.

"The Painted Veil" is one of the most visually entrancing films I have ever seen. It is also very moving and powerful.

Shot on location in some stunningly beautiful areas of China, it tells the troubled love story of bacteriologist Dr Walter Fane (Edward Norton) and his bride Kitty (Naomi Watts). Walter Fane is head of a research institute in China. Seeing Kitty at a party on a visit to London, and falling in love with her, Walter asks for her hand in marriage: delighted to finally have an offer for her hand, her parents pressure Kitty to accept him. Shortly afterwards she finds herself in China as the new wife of a man she barely knows and with whom she has little in common.

In this situation, Kitty foolishly succumbs to the charm of a rakish British diplomat, Charles Townsend (Liev Shrieber), and has an affair with him. Finding out about the affair at the same time as a cholera epidemic threatens to decimate the population of a remote and backward Chinese province, the furious Walter volunteers to help control the epidemic and takes Kitty with him into the heart of the area threatened by the disease.

As Walter battles the Cholera epidemic in the face of rising Chinese resentment of Western interference in their country, power struggles between Chinese warlords, and ignorant local resistance to the measures necessary to stop the disease, he and Kitty meet a cast of extraordinary characters. These include the Mother Superior of the local convent (Diana Rigg), a secretly decadent British Deputy Commissioner, Waddington (Toby Jones) and the local Kuomintang (KMT) commanding officer, Colonel Wu (Anthony Wong). And meanwhile Walter and Kitty come to learn to know each other - but can their love re-establish itself before death claims one or both of them?

This version of the story depicts one view of the changes which were sweeping China in the '20s. It presents the Nationalists as striving to create a new China which would not be dominated either by feudal warlords or by foreigners. One of the most subtle and well crafted parts of the film is the developing relationship between Walter Fane and the most powerful local Chinese leader, the KMT's Colonel Wu.

Anthony Wong brilliantly portrays the way the nationalist Colonel is initially minded to despise the interfering English doctor, but as he gradually realises that Walter Fane is genuinely trying to save the lives of local people and has a better idea than anyone else of how to do so, Colonel Wu helps Fane to take the measures, sometimes highly unpopular ones, needed to control the cholera epidemic.

The film is not without its tragic moments which hit very hard, but it is brilliantly made, very moving, and highly satisfying. I would strongly recommend it.
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