Customer Reviews for

The White Countess

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  • Posted October 1, 2010

    The Perfect Bar, the Perfect Cast at the End of a Beautiful Partnership

    White Countess is a fitting tribute to the late Ismail Merchant. The last film in partnership with James Ivory before Merchant's death, it is an intelligent, engrossing story of an imperfect man in a dangerous and imperfect world finding love and redemption in a Shanghai bar.

    Ralph Fiennes portrays a former diplomat, blind and battered by war and loss, who lives in teeming Shanghai in the 1930s before the Japanese invasion of that city. Fiennes as Todd Jackson chooses to cocoon himself from the pain of existence -- but captive to his own cynicism -- by imagining and then establishing the perfect Shanghai bar. There is an attractive quirkiness to Fiennes' characterization of the blind Jackson -- a clumsiness caused perhaps not so much by sightlessness as by a constant state of mild inebriation.

    For his hostess he is drawn to the Countess Sofia played by the late Natasha Richardson -- a beautiful, displaced White Russian who works as a dance hall girl/prostitute to support her ungrateful family.

    His dream is realized thanks to Sofia and the mysterious Mr. Matsuda, chillingly depicted by Hiroyuki Sanada. And Jackson is saved as the city is on the verge of being destroyed in the invasion.

    This movie has no quick cutaway shots, no jumpy hand-held camera views. This camera caresses and stares into the soul of the city, its chaos and its masses, and reveals all in the expressions and movements of its leading characters. Like every Merchant/Ivory production, this is a gorgeous film with the added advantage of having the literate and civilized, revealing but understated, script of Kazuo Ishiguro. (A moving scene with Vanessa Redgrave and John Wood as a displaced aristocratic couple paying their respects at the French consulate in Shanghai is pure Ishiguro at his best). This is a film to be savored and, as such, may hold limited appeal for some moviegoers.

    Both Ismail Merchant and Natasha Richardson will be missed; it is a blessing that the White Countess remains to let us enjoy the considerable talents of both.

    3 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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    Posted January 21, 2010

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    Posted June 20, 2009

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