The Painted Veil
For the very British Kitty (Naomi Watts), it appears that life may have passed her by. Her family thinks she's on the way to becoming an old maid, and there haven't been too many gentleman callers. That is, until bacteriologist Walter Fane (Edward Norton) enters her life and proposes marriage after they've met at a party. Kitty is reticent, but when she hears her mother speak of her like she will never get married, in revenge she accepts Walter's proposal even though it means moving to China. She goes with her new husband abroad, where the emergence of Chiang Kai-shek is causing problems for the British nationalists. It's there she meets Charlie Townsend (Liev Schreiber), also married, and the two quickly fall into an adulterous relationship. Walter finds out and offers a neat divorce if Kitty can get Charlie to leave his wife as well. When Charlie falters, Kitty realizes she's trapped and goes with her husband on a remote assignment to a small village in China where there's a cholera outbreak. Their only British company is Waddington (Toby Jones), a diplomat who's made a consort of a Chinese girl and spends most of his time smoking opium, while the hospital Walter works at is connected to a nunnery, where the headmistress (Diana Rigg) wants to convert Kitty. And it's in this remote section of China where Kitty finally finds a way to fall in love with her husband. Director John Curran is apparently fascinated with cheating on spouses his last feature, We Don't Live Here Anymore (2004), was rife with cuckoldry. But in adapting W. Somerset Maugham's novel of the same name which has gone through two previous adaptations Curran seems to want to return to the heart of this early 20th century novel. It is no more nor less than a story about a woman deciding to love her man, but as a film from 2006, that's fascinating in its own right. With a lush decorum and some great actors around (and Norton does an acceptable job with his accent), it's a mildly enjoyable ride through a great setting. Also starring Hong Kong's legendary cult actor Anthony Wong. Warner Home Video presents The Painted Veil in a strong anamorphic transfer (2.35:1). For a title that is partly made by the foreign details of remote China, the cinematography by Stuart Dryburrgh is well represented by the DVD. Extras consist of the theatrical trailer and bonus trailers. Keep-case.