Posted on May 6, 2007 - by MG
I love Deborah Ross’s movie reviews in The Spectator. The poor woman mostly seems doomed to have to see films that disappoint, and when she says to stay away I usually do. Conversely, when she gives something a really big huzzah…hey, I’m there.
So I had to dash out to see “The Painted Veil”, which made our Deborah weep, apparently. I was one of the only people aged under 50 in the cinema, so I could tell right away that it was a Serious Proper Film for Grown-Ups and not like the usual eye-candy I usually go to see. (Art cinema, moi?)
Actually it wasn’t very arty at all, which explains the multiplex distribution. Instead it was a good-old-fashioned emotional drama told really well, with no fancy footwork. I loved the screenplay, which ticked all the boxes I can remember reading in Robert McKee’s ‘Story’ as well as a pretty strong Hero’s Journey for the Naomi Watts character, Kitty. I read somewhere that in the Extreme Love Story genre the lovers actually fall into the roles of Protagonist and Antagonist. I can’t remember seeing this technique better and more subtly executed than in this film. You can keep your histrionics and your ‘Frankly-my-dear-I-don’t-give-a-damn’s; what could be more touching than two people accepting each other’s minor failings as human beings, learning who they really are and falling deeply in love?
I thought I’d get away without crying…until they played that song À la claire fontaine. Nostalgia overwhelmed me; I remembered singing that song at school in French class.
I was warned once about the soppiness of middle-age by my father. He used to stream tears at sad movies and Italian opera. As a teenager I’d watch him, all crisply dry-eyed and make some cutting remark. “Wait until you’re in your forties,” he’d say, “and there’s nothing more beautiful than crying at Italian opera.”