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The White Countess

102 customer reviews


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Editorial Reviews

In this final film by Oscar(r)-nominated producer Ismail Merchant (1994, Best Picture, Remains of the Day), and Oscar(r)-nominee James Ivory (1993, Best Director, Howards End), 1930s Shanghai provides the backdrop for this exceptional drama starring two-time Oscar(r)-nominee Ralph Fiennes (1997, Best Actor, The English Patient; 1994, Best Supporting Actor, Schindler's List) as Todd Jackson, a diplomat blinded in a bombing. An encounter with Sophia (Natasha Richardson, Maid in Manhattan), an exiled Countess employed as a bar girl, inspires him to open his own club, but only if she will work for him. Sophia's in-laws (two-time Oscar(r)-nominee Lynn Redgrave) and Sarah (Academy Award(r) winner Vanessa Redgrave), greedily pocket her income, but denounce her as a bad influence on her daughter. When Japanese troops invade the city, a mass exodus ensues! Alone and afraid, Sophia clings to the only hope left to her - finding her missing daughter!


Special Features

  • Commentary by director James Ivory and Natasha Richardson
  • " The Making of The White Countess" featurette
  • Behind the scenes featurette
  • A Tribute to Ismail Merchant

Product Details

  • Actors: Ralph Fiennes, Natasha Richardson, Vanessa Redgrave, Lynn Redgrave, Hiroyuki Sanada
  • Directors: James Ivory
  • Writers: Kazuo Ishiguro
  • Producers: Ismail Merchant, Andreas Schmid, Ben Spencer
  • Format: Multiple Formats, AC-3, Closed-captioned, Color, Dolby, Dubbed, NTSC, Subtitled, Widescreen
  • Language: English (Dolby Digital 5.1)
  • Subtitles: English, French
  • Dubbed: French
  • Subtitles for the Hearing Impaired: English
  • Region: Region 1 (U.S. and Canada only. Read more about DVD formats.)
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1
  • Number of discs: 1
  • Rated: PG-13 (Parental Guidance Suggested)
  • Studio: Sony Pictures Home Entertainment
  • DVD Release Date: May 16, 2006
  • Run Time: 136 minutes
  • Average Customer Review: 3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (102 customer reviews)
  • ASIN: B000ERVJQ8
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #67,525 in Movies & TV (See Top 100 in Movies & TV)
  • Learn more about "The White Countess" on IMDb

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

93 of 96 people found the following review helpful By Starfire on July 14, 2006
Format: DVD
Sometimes there's just something hidden beneath the surface of a film that makes it glorious. The elements poured into a film sometimes gel in just the right manner that it tugs ever so feebly at your heartstrings. Films like these include 'Howards End' and 'The Remains of the Day'. And now I would like to happily add 'The White Countess' to that list.

As usual in Merchant Ivory productions, the casting is meticulously thought out. This film is no exception. The Redgrave clan, led by the quitely luminous Natasha Richardson, and Ralph Fiennes turn in such spectacular performances that capture the audience so well that you don't even mind the sluggish pace of the narrative. In fact, you can't think of anything better to do than sit through the slow-moving 2-hour-plus film and watch these actors deliver their lines and watch them play beautifully off each other.

Richardson (who, incidentally, should really make more films) gives a soft and nuanced performance as the totally believeable exiled Russian countess. The cinematographer takes excellent advantage of her elegant beauty. Fiennes is not quite as believeable as a fallen American ex-diplomat, but hey, it's Ralph Fiennes, and we always enjoy watching him on the screen. The romance between the bar owner and his countess is brilliantly understated. What I adore most about Merchant Ivory love stories is that the characters are allowed to quietly simmer. The attraction between Jackson and Sofia is evident from the moment they appear on screen together, but the audience is always left wanting more. A brief outburst of passion is quickly dampened and (while other blockbusters would have the couple in bed half-naked) the characters go back to their outwardly-platonic relationship.
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52 of 56 people found the following review helpful By Claudette Flint on March 16, 2006
Format: DVD
THE WHITE COUNTESS by James Ivory and Ismael Merchant

I don't know why I felt the film was not a story but a situation. Maybe because of its slow pace. The spectator has the time to enjoy the splendid reconstitution of Shanghai of the 30's. Ivory's talent to generate a `very special atmosphere' makes me green with envy.

No visible sex, or violence, little action and yet the suspense builds to a crescendo driving you step by step towards a dreaded end. ("Oh my God, if it ends badly I die"). How is the gorgeous, blind, British diplomat going to avoid all the traps in front of him? (Caught in the mob running away from the Japanese army!) Argh! The scene where he stands alone in front of them! I was half way down my seat. How will the beautiful Russian countess react when her own family betrays her? I could not believe the ending! I had to climb back on my seat!! A rare stylish romantic film like they don't do anymore!
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Format: DVD
"The White Countess" was the final production of the creative team of James Ivory and Ismail Merchant, who died in May 2005. The director-producer duo is probably known best for its elegant and emotionally sharp period films, a canon to which "The White Countess" aspires. Written by Kazuo Ishiguro, "The White Countess" takes place in Shanghai, China, a city of extraordinary variety, refuge and playground for the world's exiles and expatriates, on the brink of Japanese invasion in 1936. White Russian Countess Sophia Belinskya (Natasha Richardson) works as a taxi dancer to support her young daughter and deceased husband's family, who live in poverty in Shanghai, dreaming of the elegant lives they lost to the Revolution. Todd Jackson (Ralph Fiennes) was a distinguished American diplomat before he lost his eyesight and family to violent accidents. Having acquired a certain recklessness, he wants to open a night club, where he will engineer the staff, entertainment and patrons to create a melodious and exciting blend of elements superior to any other club in Shanghai. Countess Sofia has the perfect blend of elegance and tragedy to be Jackson's "centerpiece". And she is only too happy to leave behind the desperation of the dance hall to become the hostess of The White Countess. So an uneasy relationship develops between these 2 people whose lives are dominated by loss.

"The White Countess" isn't a bad film, but it doesn't have much for the audience to grab hold of. The relationship between Todd Jackson and Countess Sofia is so distant that it doesn't engage us. We get a peek at the lives of exiled Russian nobility in Shanghai, but not enough information to learn much about that population. The re-creation of 1930s Shanghai is interesting. The ambience is conspicuous.
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25 of 27 people found the following review helpful By Richard Coeur de Lion on March 8, 2006
Verified Purchase
I rushed to see this movie in Cambridge, when it first came around. Merchant-Ivory, the entire Redgrave clan, and Ralph Fiennes all come together to make this movie work. The screenplay is hardly the best work by the talented Kazuo Ishiguro; however, the actors are incredible. Natasha Richardson turns in a performance worthy of La Streep. Lynn Redgrave's character is so glacial in her lack of humanity that she could sink a dozen Titanics with a glance. Ralph Fiennes is equal parts Bogart and Belisarius. It was fascinating to watch his character evolve, and rediscover a place in the sun. Then there is the amazing Vanessa. Her performance is understated, dignified, and utterly human. I couldn't help thinking that if Marie Antoinette had had few of Vanessa Redgrave's talents; she might have been spared the guillotine. The satellite characters - particularly the refugee Jewish family are wonderful. In fact, without them the film would not have worked. As I said, this is a flawed movie, but it's still better than some of this year's Oscar nominees. If you want to watch a group of people emerge from old world, 19th century cocoons and begin the process of rekindling hope - then I say give "The White Countess" a chance.
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