The White Countess by James Ivory |James Ivory, Ralph Fiennes, Natasha Richardson, Vanessa Redgrave | 43396117181 | DVD | Barnes & Noble
White Countess

The White Countess

4.0 5
Director: James Ivory

Cast: James Ivory, Ralph Fiennes, Natasha Richardson, Vanessa Redgrave

     
 
James Ivory directed this historical drama of a man who has shut himself away from a world he cannot change. Todd Jackson (Ralph Fiennes) is an American expatriate living in Shanghai in the late '30s. While Jackson was once an American diplomat who came to Shanghai with great optimism about China's future, the bitter political squabbling and military violence that are

Overview

James Ivory directed this historical drama of a man who has shut himself away from a world he cannot change. Todd Jackson (Ralph Fiennes) is an American expatriate living in Shanghai in the late '30s. While Jackson was once an American diplomat who came to Shanghai with great optimism about China's future, the bitter political squabbling and military violence that are a part of daily life in China caused him to become bitterly disillusioned. Jackson also lost most of his sight, and he has retreated into Shanghai's decadent underworld of bars and brothels rather than face the world. When a wager on a horse race wins Jackson a small fortune, he decides to indulge a long-time fancy and build the perfect Shanghai bar, one that would ideally reflect that corrupt beauty of the city, and he is joined in his project by Matsuda (Hiroyuki Sanada), a Japanese man with a mysterious past and an appreciation for Shanghai's underbelly. While assembling his pet project, Jackson meets Sofia (Natasha Richardson), a Russian countess who fled her home during the revolution and now lives in Shanghai, supporting her family as a dance-hall girl and occasional prostitute. In Sofia, Jackson discovers a fusion of beauty and tragedy that fascinates him, and he asks her to become the hostess at his new bar. As Jackson becomes closer to Sofia, his cynicism begins to wear away and he develops a deep concern for Sofia and her family. The White Countess also co-stars Vanessa Redgrave, and Lynn Redgrave -- respectively Natasha Richardson's mother and aunt.

Editorial Reviews

Barnes & Noble - Ed Hulse
The White Countess marks the final feature of the fabled Merchant-Ivory filmmaking team (producer Ismail Merchant died during post-production). Masters at conveying opulence and atmosphere in exotic settings, Merchant and Ivory bring their fabled touch to this romantic drama, which at its best recalls the period and romantic underpinnings of Casablanca. The story takes place in 1936 Shanghai, where blind former diplomat Todd Jackson (Ralph Fiennes) operates a flashy nightclub. One of his dancers, Sofia (Natasha Richardson), comes from a family of Russian aristocrats who were forced to flee their country after the Bolshevik takeover. While working to support her ungrateful relatives -- two of whom are played by Richardson's real-life mom and aunt, sisters Vanessa and Lynn Redgrave -- Sofia becomes romantically interested in the cynical, withdrawn Todd, only to find their relationship imperiled by the impending invasion of the city by Japanese forces. Director James Ivory skillfully echoes the Bogart-Bergman classic, instilling a similar sense of weariness and foreboding, of destinies circumvented and promises unfulfilled. All suggestions of the earlier classic aside, the finely nuanced White Countess stands firmly on its own.

Product Details

Release Date:
05/16/2006
UPC:
0043396117181
Original Release:
2005
Rating:
PG13
Source:
Sony Pictures
Region Code:
1
Time:
2:16:00

Special Features

Closed Caption; Commentary with James Ivory and Natasha Richardson; Behind-the-scenes featurette; A tribute to Ismail Merchant; Making of "The White Countess"

Cast & Crew

Performance Credits
Ralph Fiennes Todd Jackson
Natasha Richardson Countess Sofia Belinsky
Vanessa Redgrave Aunt Sara
Hiroyuki Sanada Matsuda
Lynn Redgrave Olga
Alan Corduner Samuel
Ying Da Kao
Madeleine Daly Katya
Dan Herzberg Frenchman
Jean-Pierre Lorit Antoine Jacquier
Lee Pace Crane
Madeleine Potter Greshenka
Pierre Seznec Russian Singer
Wang Luoyong Liu
John Wood Uncle Peter

Technical Credits
James Ivory Director
John David Allen Editor
Karole Armitage Choreography
Yu Baiyang Art Director
Rahila Bootwala Associate Producer
Paul Bradley Co-producer
John Bright Costumes/Costume Designer
Christopher Doyle Cinematographer
George Every Asst. Director
David Fletcher Special Effects Supervisor
Celestia Fox Casting
Richard Hawley Co-producer
Robert Hein Sound/Sound Designer
Kazuo Ishiguro Screenwriter
Yue-Sai Kan Associate Producer
Patrick Ko Executive Producer
Ismail Merchant Producer
Andre Morgan Executive Producer
Richard Robbins Score Composer
Andrew Sanders Production Designer
Andreas Schmid Executive Producer
Marcus Schöfer Executive Producer
Chen Shaomian Art Director
Steve Simmonds Art Director

Scene Index

Disc #1 -- The White Countess
1. Start [3:42]
2. Passion and Necessity [4:14]
3. A Failure to See [6:59]
4. Bar of Dreams [3:39]
5. A Royal Escort [4:42]
6. "She's the One." [2:03]
7. Once Upon a Time [2:05]
8. Little Comforts [2:06]
9. Visions of a Better Place [2:26]
10. Risks and Rewards [5:00]
11. A Certain Proposal [6:56]
12. Inescapable Reality [3:21]
13. The Missing Ingredient [4:05]
14. Sharing Sad Songs [5:23]
15. A Familiar Request [3:40]
16. Too Much Like Mother [6:15]
17. Politics of Tension [4:21]
18. Size of the Canvas [3:27]
19. Old Hats, New Chances [7:51]
20. Losing Sight [4:43]
21. An Impassioned Outburst [3:13]
22. Unkept Promises [3:45]
23. A Pressing Matter [2:48]
24. Gaining New Perspective [5:34]
25. Abandoned [8:47]
26. Terrible Nature of Things [6:16]
27. Helping Each Other [2:22]
28. A Boat Ride Together [5:01]

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The White Countess 4 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 5 reviews.
MandevilleFaux More than 1 year ago
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.
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