The White Countess

2005

Drama / History / Romance / War

4
Rotten Tomatoes Critics - Rotten 49%
Rotten Tomatoes Audience - Spilled 50%
IMDb Rating 6.6 10 6166

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Synopsis


Uploaded By: FREEMAN
February 01, 2021 at 06:16 AM

Director

Cast

Lee Pace as Crane
Hiroyuki Sanada as Matsuda
Vanessa Redgrave as Princess Vera Belinskya
Natasha Richardson as Countess Sofia Belinskya
720p.WEB 1080p.WEB
1.22 GB
1280*720
English 2.0
NR
23.976 fps
2 hr 15 min
P/S 3 / 27
2.26 GB
1904*1072
English 2.0
NR
23.976 fps
2 hr 15 min
P/S 5 / 22

Movie Reviews

Reviewed by gradyharp 8 / 10

Expatriots and Survival Explode in Shanghai

The team of Ismail Merchant, James Ivory, and Kazuo Ishiguro will unfortunately never offer another special film. THE WHITE COUNTESS is all the more meaningful as it was their last effort. While many viewers find this 138 minute film boring and plot less, there is a flavor here that could only be captured by this team.

Shanghai, 1936. While the disruptions in global existence created by World War I have created fearful evacuees of many countries to the old city of Shanghai, those émigrés survive by any means possible. Todd Jackson (Ralph Fiennes) is an American diplomat who lost his wife, daughter, and eyesight in an accident and lives his blind existence visiting the music bars for solace. His dream is to own a music/dance/entertainment club and his fortune is changed by winning at horse racing. He encounters Countess Sofia Belinskya (Natasha Richardson), a woman of Russian royalty who has fled Russia with the fall of the Czars with her daughter Katya (Madeleine Daly), and her aunts Princess Vera Belinskya (Vanessa Redgrave) and Olga Belinskya (Lynn Redgrave) and Greshenka (Madeleine Potter) who live in a tiny loathsome apartment and are dependent entirely upon Sofia's income as a dance hostess in a seedy club. In their building lives Mr. Feinstein (Allan Corduner) and his Jewish family who likewise have sought asylum in Shanghai and who proffers kindness to Sofia's plight.

Jackson's winnings afford him the luxury of opening 'The White Countess' club at the encouragement of his Japanese friend Mr. Matsuda (Hiroyuki Sanada) and realizing Sofia's dignity and needs, Jackson makes Sofia the sophisticated hostess of his club. The dance of pre-World War II grows from a distant echo into a reality with the insidious growth in numbers of Japanese soldiers and soon the truth of the Japanese imperialism intentions becomes evident. The émigrés begin to escape Shanghai and in the midst of Sofia's family's escape to Hong Kong her aunts make it known that Sofia must stay in Shanghai: her work as a dance hall hostess would smear their reputation as they return to a position of royalty! Jackson and Feinstein intervene to prevent Sofia's loss of her daughter and the slowly evolving relationship between Jackson and Sofia is clarified.

There is plenty of plot for the active mind in this story, and in the style of Merchant Ivory productions the story unfolds gradually, layer upon layer, in a study of atmosphere embroidered by words. The setting is stunningly beautiful to see, and the unfolding of the story is as painfully slow as the life of displaced people in a foreign city can be. Times change, moods alter, events metamorphose and at the end of the film the events of the story are well braided. Natasha Richardson is radiant as Sofia, a woman of style who graciously does what it takes to survive. The Redgrave sisters exude the embarrassment of being bereft of their regal breeding in the squalor of Shanghai. Fiennes is a broken man with so much pride that he fears vulnerability. Sanada embodies the elegance and grace with which the Japanese adroitly usurped China into their Great Plan.

Yes, the film could use some editing, but one can understand why editor John David Allen would have had difficulty in cutting the beauty of the cinematography of Christopher Doyle and Yiu-Fai Lai capturing the costumes of John Bright and the sets of Andrew Sanders and Qi Bian. This film is more an atmosphere than story and requires the viewer to submit to the manner of relating the tale. But in the end it is a beautiful work and sadly the last of a series of great films by an incomparable team. Grady Harp

Reviewed by kate_lee-movie 7 / 10

Perhaps not Ivory's best

I had an opportunity to see this movie at a screening. The White Countess is not scheduled to open in theaters until December, so it was a very early screening. I am saying this because I have a little bit of doubt that what I saw was the final cut.

Based on a screenplay by Kazuo Ishiguro (The Saddest Music in the World, and the original novel for the movie, Remains of the Day), and featuring a magnificent cast (including Vanessa and Lynn Redgrave in addition to Fiennes and Richardson), this last Merchant-Ivory film (Ismail Merchant died this year) has bred a great expectation in movie lovers' hearts. I regret to say what I saw was not the best of Merchant-Ivory.

It is Shanghai in 1930s where all different sorts of Europeans and Americans established their ways of living inside the ancient Chinese city. The story is about an American middle-aged man who lives in a world inside his head, blind to the world around him. Jackson (Ralph Fiennes) is a former American diplomat who lost his vision. Yes, and yes—in both physical and psychological sense. He had buried his wife and a son after a house fire, and a few years after that, lost his only surviving child in a terrorist bombing incidence that also took away his sight. It is no surprise that the man is in a bitter despair. He becomes a man of lost faith. In his darkness, Jackson obstinately clings to and cultivates a rather esoteric ideal—creating a perfect nightclub. When Jackson meets Sofia Belinsky (Natasha Richardson), a Russian Countess who is forced to work dishonorable jobs to support her dead husband's family and her daughter, he immediately sees in his head a perfect centerpiece for his dream club.

One thing that is extraordinary about this movie is the beautiful acting performance. Fiennes, often called the best internal actor of his generation, gives a stunningly exquisite performance as the blind man who resides in a world inside his mind—take just an example of the shadow of disappointment casting down on the lonely man's face when his new friend Matsuda bids him good night after a long night's conversation about nightclubs in Shanghai. It somehow makes cinematic sense that a person who cannot see other people's faces inadvertently reveals his soul with most minute movements of eyes and facial muscles. Although Fiennes' delicate features and willow physique do not quite conjure up the image of Humphrey Bogart to which the Jackson character curiously alludes, Fiennes makes a perfect bar owner in the style of Rick Blaine (Casablanca) meets Oscar Hopkins (played by Fiennes in Oscar and Lucinda).

Richardson wonderfully materializes "the perfect combination of the erotic and the tragic" and gives a heart-breaking performance as the aristocratic woman fallen to the reality of a horrid and abject life, and a mother who is going to do anything to save her child's future.

And so—here I am facing the unpleasant task of talking about the rest—it is pity that the director James Ivory lets these actors stand there bare and alone. Hardly any cinematic device is utilized to foreground the emotion or romance of this couple. The result is quite devastating. The romance sparkles moment by moment through the wonderful work of these two talented actors, but those moments do not connect well with each other, lost and found and lost again. Some scenes seem to need more editing work. For example, the horse race scene looks like a raw material from a daily—very awkward. For the lack of romantic fire, the screenplay is partly at fault in its meagerness. Although it contains an abundance of intriguing metaphors and keen observations on human lives, the screenplay does lack something—be it suave packaging of romance or absorbing dialog. But ultimately, I blame the director for not coming up with solutions to make the whole thing work better.

I normally love Ivory films. I don't know why this one did not work for me. Perhaps Ivory is not a man for romantic materials. Or perhaps the death of his partner, Merchant, took its toll on this film. In any case, if what I saw last night was the final version, Fiennes and Richardson might not be able to be rescued from this movie during this Oscar season.

Reviewed by tomosterbind 10 / 10

An in-depth look at The White Countess

The White Countess achieves the "perfect balance of romance and tragedy." It is the story of two broken souls who each end up being the remedy to the other's fall from grace. While this description may not point to anything extraordinary on its own, Natasha Richardson (Countess Sophia Belinsky) and Ralph Fiennes (Todd Jackson) dazzle us with outstanding performances in this final Merchant-Ivory film. Superb acting, complex characters, and visually stunning sets make for a realistic, timeless five-star drama.

Ralph Fiennes plays the role of Todd Jackson, a disillusioned American ex-diplomat. The loss of his family and vision to Chinese-Japanese political turmoil destroy his hopes and prospects for the world. The disappointment in the stagnant progress of the League of Nations drives Jackson away from the desperate political scene, and he attempts to shut out all reminders of an uncontrollable painful world. He goes on spending his time frequenting Shanghai's classiest bars, surrounding himself in luxury and warmth. He finds friendship in a Japanese man named Matsuda who shares his dreams to create the perfect bar. People warn Jackson that Matsuda is a feared political revolutionary; however, this has no impact on their relationship—Jackson has completely shut the doors to the outside world. Fiennes expertly sticks to his character delivering the heavy, demanding lines with eloquence while appearing to be truly blind.

In his quest to create this perfect bar he runs into Countess Sophia Belinsky a Russian Aristocrat who has fled to Shanghai escape the Bolshevik Revolution. She is living with her late husband's family and her daughter, Katya. She single-handedly supports them by prostituting herself despite their assailment and complete lack of gratitude. Jackson finds in her the perfect balance of romance and tragedy and asks her to be the centerpiece of his bar and names it of her. Natasha Richardson emanates a deep sadness and longing for a once beautiful world and lets the audience feel what Jackson finds in Countess Sophia.

The two of them succeed in creating their own controllable world. With the right music, the right crowd, and a sense of political tension, Jackson feels he has made his dream come true. However, at the end of the night, Countess Sophia must return to the slums and the outside world with all its troubles and other unpredictable variables. As Jackson's relationship with Sophia develops, he begins to realize the impracticality of his "heavy doors". This accompanied with Matsuda's luring of a "broader canvas" slowly cause Jackson to emerge from his shell. At the end of the film, Jackson and Sophia return to the outside world together with a new hope found in one another.

The themes of isolation and alienation are rampant in this film and occur on many levels. Sophia is shut off from her family and eventually abandoned because of her disgraceful job. Jackson is blind physically and mentally from the real world. They are strangers in a foreign country, a country whose sole foreign policy for the past several centuries has been isolationism (they built a wall to keep people out). These instances are not simply strewn about but are intricately woven into the plot to create a deeper, more meaningful story.

The White Countess explores devastation and new hope, heartbreak and new love, and shows us the hopelessness of walls and cages. We can always close our eyes but that doesn't mean everything around us will disappear.

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