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Directors of For Sama

Lulu Wang (The Farewell)
Ritesh Batra (Photograph)
Schmidt & Abrantes (Diamantino)
Wanuri Kahiu (Rafiki)
Jia Zhang-ke (Ash is Purest White)

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« Valentine's - Les chansons d'amour | Main | Heroes & Villains »

Valentine's - The Painted Veil

Team Experience is sharing favorite love scenes for Valentine's. Here's Josh...

It's a familiar and tested recipe to throw a beautiful period frock on an actress worth their weight in Oscars, and set her literary romantic troubles against a luscious location. Actressexuals and their mums will be clutching their pearls in the cinema on the first night it opens, and rewatching on DVD instead of reading the book for years to come. But let this not detract from The Painted Veil, the underrated and oscarless (not even nominations!) gem from 2006. 

That divine poster image of Edward Norton and Naomi Watts drifting along the river is plucked from the films most beautiful scene. The scenes beauty is due in no small part to Alexander Desplat's score that rides the romance of the film perfectly. His 'River Waltz' which accompanies the scene echoes the films romantic arc, its gentle chords and progressive structure mirrors the very real struggle of Kitty and Walter as they have 'waltzed' around one another in a tricky marriage, peppered with early acts of deliberate cruelty. As they ease into the relationship, and let the rhythms of their new life together guide them, they become entwined and supportive partners. The score also playfully references Gnossienne No 1 by Erik Satie, a piece used in the film first diegetically playing in the party that Walter first swoons over Kitty passing him in the hallway, and then again as Kitty plays the tune on a rickety piano in the orphanage as he watches on. A moment of projected love, and a moment of genuine discovery of love.

And the scene is lusciously visual. Much credit to the location scouts for finding this location in the Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region in China. Wide blue eyed Naomi and her gorgeous lace parasol, and swoon worthy Ed Norton in a crisp linen shirt, set against those towering rock faces and sprawling bamboo. It's a smorgasbord of romanticism and a perfect antithesis from their first gruelling journey, one that Walter made them make on foot, to punish Kitty. This is a rare romance that let's us fall in love the same time the characters do.

Our Valentine's Series
A Room With a View (1986)
Shakespeare in Love (1998)
Before Sunset (2004)
Love Songs (2007)
(500) Days of Summer (2009)
Beyond the Lights (2014)

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Reader Comments (20)

I entered into watching this with a great deal of trepidation. I'm not the biggest fan of any of the leads, they're good performers just not ones that draw me to a film necessarily, I had seen both the Garbo version of the same name and the Eleanor Parker remake called The Seventh Sin and while both were decent films they were heavy going. What finally got me to watch was the presence of Diana Rigg in the cast.

So with all that I was really delighted that this swept me up almost right from the beginning and turned out to be the best version of the story. It's incredibly atmospheric, beautifully shot and Naomi, Norton and Liev Schreiber all do some of their best work. I didn't even mind when it turned out that Diana Rigg's part was little more than a cameo!

February 13, 2016 | Unregistered Commenterjoel6

This movie will always be an emblem of how evil the December glut is for beautiful films. This movie was so special and was just buried in flashier Oscar hungry titles and commercial grabs. And you don't just bury a movie this good!

Josh thanks for writing it up. We don't discuss it enough.

February 13, 2016 | Registered CommenterNATHANIEL R

Good to see I'm not the only one that adore this movie, such a gem that remains undiscovered by most. This was the movie that made me fall in love with Desplat, the score is incredible.

February 13, 2016 | Unregistered CommenterV.

This movie is fab. So good.

February 13, 2016 | Unregistered CommenterAnonny

agreed with all and the choice of the gnossiene by satie was perfect...had me swooning big time.

February 13, 2016 | Unregistered Commentermatt

This is a great romantic movie that for some reason was ignored by Oscar- beautifully crafted and with great performances from everyone in the cast

February 13, 2016 | Unregistered CommenterJaragon

This is a little lost classic dumped in Dec and not being allowed to breath properly,Norton & Watts are fab together,sh's much bettter when she doesn't strain,shame Norton couldn't break into 2006's weak Best Actor race.

February 13, 2016 | Unregistered Commentermark

My favorite scene is when Eddie showed his cute butt haha.

February 13, 2016 | Unregistered CommenterChanteuse

This movie is purely romantic, devastating, and sweeping. I didn't realize Edward "Fight Club/American History X" Norton had it in him to be a romantic lead like that. For me, he's the greatest actor of his generation and no one is more suckered about the state of his career.

February 13, 2016 | Unregistered Commentercaroline

@Caroline: I think Daddy Eddie's reputation of being difficult to work with is the reason for this. :(

February 13, 2016 | Unregistered CommenterChanteuse

Caroline & Chanteuse -- i often wonder how truly difficult MALE actors must be to earn that reputation because male film stars can get away with a lot without getting that rep unlike their female counterparts.

February 14, 2016 | Unregistered CommenterNathaniel R

True, and I'm not blaming anyone else at all what happened to him -- though the story behind the Painted Veil production itself seems to be interesting; apparently it was one of the ones Norton was being "extremely difficult on," insisting on rewriting the screenplay himself and Watts backed him up (!)

February 14, 2016 | Unregistered Commentercaroline

He's prorobaly a perfectionist/control typeperson.

February 14, 2016 | Unregistered Commentermark

See The Illusionist for more proof that Edward Norton can be plenty romantic!

Gorgeously shot film with a great cast. But geez, it's depressing.

February 14, 2016 | Unregistered CommenterDoctor Strange

seeing this post actually made me tear up -- I love this film so much and find it so strange that it's so unknown and under-appreciated. You'd think the Oscars would have eaten up something like this but the film is actually SO much more than a standard period romance.

February 14, 2016 | Unregistered Commentertr devlin

Re: performances, Edward Norton & Toby Jones are in top form but Naomi especially kills it here. She's just terrific. Mullholland Drive, King Kong and this film are her at her very best. Star performances in all three of them; even more impressive is she is so different in all of them. .

February 14, 2016 | Unregistered CommenterAnonny

Norton got an Indie nod.I think.

February 14, 2016 | Unregistered Commentermark

I loved both The Painted Veil and The Illusionist that year. I first became aware of Desplat and Dick Pope (cinematography for The Illusionist). Norton is one of my favorite actors, and I'm glad for my sake that he makes the effort to make each of his movies better. Smart makes romantic way better.

February 14, 2016 | Unregistered Commenteradri

I love this movie so much, it is so lush, atmospheric, and romantic. Happy to see it get attention. I read the book after seeing the movie and loved that too.

February 14, 2016 | Unregistered Commenterdaisy

Love everything about this movie - the leads, the scenery, the heartbreaking script, but above all else, the score...

February 15, 2016 | Unregistered CommenterJoanne

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