25 October 2009 | Irie212
Maugham's story, much improved.
The best adaptation of Maugham may be "The Letter," but this version of "The Painted Veil," which substantially changes his ending, is very nearly as good-- as subtle, as elegant, and as satisfying as a work of art. Both examine the profound differences and similarities that exist between passion and love, but this film goes deeper, looking at the glory that ensues when, at length, love and passion bloom together.
Much credit goes to William Daniels, who was D.P. for directors from Stroheim to Ichikawa to Bud Yorkin. His framing and silvery lighting give even greater weight to the superb performances by Garbo and the masterful Herbert Marshall. Together Daniels and director Boleslawski allow the two actors to deliver the very affecting and very adult dialog with rare dignity and feeling.
The two kitchen scenes in particular, one in the first sequence, and one near the end, are flawless, and all the better because of being parallels, and because the dialog employs the sheer force of elemental simplicity. In the second scene,when cholera-fighting Marshall finally speaks of his wife's infidelity, he humbly takes some of the blame, saying, "I went blind
a little mad. But if all the men who were hurt simply quit — bad business." Garbo at last begins to understand and replies, "Being in love, and letting it smash things as I have, I thought it had the right of way, I really did." She finally realizes that passion, such as hers for her lover, can be both deeply felt and utterly shallow.
One more note about the visual genius on display. A standard cliché, fireworks,is used to suggest orgasm, but it is done as brilliantly and thrillingly as I've ever seen: three or four bursts of sparks shoot into the frame, like nothing so much as ejaculation.