7 January 2007 | ferguson-6
Greetings again from the darkness. This is a surprisingly wonderful adaptation of the W Somerset Maugham novel. Maugham passed away many years ago, but in his time was an incredibly famous and popular playwright and novelist. His best known work is probably "The Razor's Edge". Part of the surprise is the beauty of the film since it is directed by John Curran, who has no directing credits to his name since 1995's excellent "Babe, the pig". Curran's eye and talent are on full display here with the aesthetics of 1920's China and the devastation of cholera.
The story is simple, but oh so elegant. Edward Norton and Naomi Watts are a very odd couple whom circumstances bring to an ill-conceived marriage. They are quite the odd couple and not the least bit charming together, even in the good moments. Norton stumbles on an affair between Watts and Liev Schreiber and the next thing we know Norton and Watts are on a two week journey into the depths of a Chinese jungle where a devastating cholera epidemic is occurring. The horrible situation brings out the best in each as people and finally as a couple. Along the way, their lives are impacted by two rather odd acquaintances, Toby Jones (off his fine turn as Truman Capote) and the long lost Diana Rigg as the Mother Superior at the local orphanage.
The story is tight, interesting and believable ... all signs of a terrific writer. The acting is worthy of such fine material and direction. Mr. Norton is wonderful as the quietly simmering bacteriologist who lacks interpersonal skills and warmth until the tragic environment brings about self-discovery. Ms. Watts continues her amazing run of top-caliber performances and is one of our top 3 actresses today. She is so subtle at times that it is easy to take her skills for granted. Mr. Schreiber, Mr. Jones and Ms. Rigg are all excellent in their roles and lets hope that Ms. Rigg will continue to bless us with her screen magic. It has been 40 years since she was the sexy Emma Peel from "The Avengers", but her presence on the screen is very welcome and needed.
There is a haunting score that continues throughout the film and some tremendous piano work credited to Lang Lang. The mood of the music and the film setting work together to deliver the effect of reading the novel as we watch the film. Quite a knockout for director Curran, who hopefully will not now disappear for the next decade!