The White Countess

Rated PG-13 138 minutes 2006

Sad to say, those who want to remember the glories of the Merchant-Ivory canon -- The Remains of the Day, A Room With a View, and all the rest -- might want to skip this last chapter in the book. Producer Ismail Merchant, who died in 2005 at 68, collaborated one last time with director James Ivory on this crass melodrama set in 1930s Shanghai, and you can barely get through the thing for its clog of lit-class metaphors. The estimable Ralph Fiennes stars as a blinded former American diplomat who opens a microcosmic international nightclub (see also: Cabaret and Casablanca) on the eve of the Japanese invasion; lovely Natasha Richardson is the fallen Czarist countess who, because she "has the perfect balance of the erotic and the tragic," becomes the joint's centerpiece. The two of them can't actually keep the real world at bay, although they have a clear shot at falling in love. With Hiroyuki Sanada as the mysterious Japanese Matsuda and the shockingly bewrinkled Redgrave sisters, Vanessa and Lynn, as the countess's nattering Russian relatives.

Film Credits

Official Site: www.sonypictures.com/classics/whitecountess

Director: James Ivory

Writer: Kazuo Ishiguro

Producer: Andreas Grosch and Ismail Merchant

Cast: Ralph Fiennes, Natasha Richardson, Vanessa Redgrave, Lynn Redgrave, John Wood, Madeleine Potter, Allan Corduner, Hiroyuki Sanada, Madeleine Cooper and Kyle Rothstein

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