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8 items from 2005


The White Countess

20 December 2005 | The Hollywood Reporter - Movie News | See recent The Hollywood Reporter - Movie News news »

Screened

Fort Lauderdale International Film Festival

FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. -- Notable as the final collaboration between director James Ivory and producer Ismail Merchant, "The White Countess" is a typically classy period piece that fits in well with the pair's considerable oeuvre. Featuring stellar performances by Ralph Fiennes and Natasha Richardson, the film, boasting an original screenplay by Kazuo Ishiguro ("The Remains of the Day"), was recently showcased at the Fort Lauderdale International Film Festival prior to its December theatrical release.

Both stars showcase their skill with accents in the story, set in Shanghai in the late 1930s. Fiennes plays Todd Jackson, an embittered former American diplomat who lost both his daughter and his eyes in a terrorist bombing, while Richardson is the titular figure, Sofia Belinsky, a Russian countess reduced to working as a dance-hall girl and prostitute in order to support her extended family, which includes her young daughter and several disapproving in-laws (two of whom are played by Vanessa and Lynn Redgrave in their first feature pairing).

The film concentrates on the friendly but formal relationship that develops between Jackson and Belinsky, one that turns deeper as he fulfills his dream of owning a swanky nightspot. Dubbing it "The White Countess" in her honor, he hires her as its chief hostess, and the business becomes a raging success. In the best tradition of foreign-set melodramas, their happiness becomes short-lived thanks to the unrest created by the impending Japanese invasion of the city.

Ishiguro's screenplay contains more than a few hokey moments and familiar elements, featuring influences ranging from "Casablanca" to his own "The Remains of the Day", but it manages to work nonetheless, aided in no small degree by the polished production and the committed performances. Fiennes, playing the sort of role that would have been essayed by Bogart, Gable or Cooper in their heyday, displays both his gift for incisive characterization and no small amount of movie star charisma. Richardson, though saddled with an accent that makes her unintelligible at times, is equally fine, showcasing her intelligence and sensuality in equal proportions.

Redgrave siblings Vanessa and Lynn clearly seem to be enjoying their onscreen time together, and such British thesps as John Wood, Madeleine Potter and Allan Corduner deliver vibrant turns in smaller roles. Hiroyuki Sanada, as Jackson's driver with a shady past, displays the subtle power that has made him a star in his native Japan.

The director has staged the elaborate production in his usual stately but impressive manner, and the production values boast the usual Merchant/Ivory stamp of quality.

The White Countess

Sony Pictures Classics

Credits:

Director: James Ivory

Screenplay by: Kazuo Ishiguro

Producers: Ismail Merchant

Executive producers: Andre Morgan, Andreas Schmid, Marcus Schofer

Co-producers: Paul Bradley, Richard Hawley

Cinematographer: Christopher Doyle, Yiu-Fai Lai

Editor: John David Allen

Original music by: Richard Robbins

Production designer: Andrew Sanders

Cast:

Todd Jackson: Ralph Fiennes

Sofia Belinsky: Natasha Richardson

Sarah: Vanessa Redgrave

Olga: Lynn Redgrave

John Wood, Madeleine Potter

Samuel: Allan Corduner

Matsuda: Hiroyuki Sanada

No MPAA rating

Running time -- 138 minutes »

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The White Countess

16 November 2005 | The Hollywood Reporter - Movie News | See recent The Hollywood Reporter - Movie News news »

Screened

Fort Lauderdale International Film Festival

FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. -- Notable as the final collaboration between director James Ivory and producer Ismail Merchant, "The White Countess" is a typically classy period piece that fits in well with the pair's considerable oeuvre. Featuring stellar performances by Ralph Fiennes and Natasha Richardson, the film, boasting an original screenplay by Kazuo Ishiguro ("The Remains of the Day"), was recently showcased at the Fort Lauderdale International Film Festival prior to its December theatrical release.

Both stars showcase their skill with accents in the story, set in Shanghai in the late 1930s. Fiennes plays Todd Jackson, an embittered former American diplomat who lost both his daughter and his eyes in a terrorist bombing, while Richardson is the titular figure, Sofia Belinsky, a Russian countess reduced to working as a dance-hall girl and prostitute in order to support her extended family, which includes her young daughter and several disapproving in-laws (two of whom are played by Vanessa and Lynn Redgrave in their first feature pairing).

The film concentrates on the friendly but formal relationship that develops between Jackson and Belinsky, one that turns deeper as he fulfills his dream of owning a swanky nightspot. Dubbing it "The White Countess" in her honor, he hires her as its chief hostess, and the business becomes a raging success. In the best tradition of foreign-set melodramas, their happiness becomes short-lived thanks to the unrest created by the impending Japanese invasion of the city.

Ishiguro's screenplay contains more than a few hokey moments and familiar elements, featuring influences ranging from "Casablanca" to his own "The Remains of the Day", but it manages to work nonetheless, aided in no small degree by the polished production and the committed performances. Fiennes, playing the sort of role that would have been essayed by Bogart, Gable or Cooper in their heyday, displays both his gift for incisive characterization and no small amount of movie star charisma. Richardson, though saddled with an accent that makes her unintelligible at times, is equally fine, showcasing her intelligence and sensuality in equal proportions.

Redgrave siblings Vanessa and Lynn clearly seem to be enjoying their onscreen time together, and such British thesps as John Wood, Madeleine Potter and Allan Corduner deliver vibrant turns in smaller roles. Hiroyuki Sanada, as Jackson's driver with a shady past, displays the subtle power that has made him a star in his native Japan.

The director has staged the elaborate production in his usual stately but impressive manner, and the production values boast the usual Merchant/Ivory stamp of quality.

The White Countess

Sony Pictures Classics

Credits:

Director: James Ivory

Screenplay by: Kazuo Ishiguro

Producers: Ismail Merchant

Executive producers: Andre Morgan, Andreas Schmid, Marcus Schofer

Co-producers: Paul Bradley, Richard Hawley

Cinematographer: Christopher Doyle, Yiu-Fai Lai

Editor: John David Allen

Original music by: Richard Robbins

Production designer: Andrew Sanders

Cast:

Todd Jackson: Ralph Fiennes

Sofia Belinsky: Natasha Richardson

Sarah: Vanessa Redgrave

Olga: Lynn Redgrave

John Wood, Madeleine Potter

Samuel: Allan Corduner

Matsuda: Hiroyuki Sanada

No MPAA rating

Running time -- 138 minutes »

Permalink | Report a problem


The White Countess

14 November 2005 | The Hollywood Reporter - Movie News | See recent The Hollywood Reporter - Movie News news »

Screened

Fort Lauderdale International Film Festival

FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. -- Notable as the final collaboration between director James Ivory and producer Ismail Merchant, "The White Countess" is a typically classy period piece that fits in well with the pair's considerable oeuvre. Featuring stellar performances by Ralph Fiennes and Natasha Richardson, the film, boasting an original screenplay by Kazuo Ishiguro ("The Remains of the Day"), was recently showcased at the Fort Lauderdale International Film Festival prior to its December theatrical release.

Both stars showcase their skill with accents in the story, set in Shanghai in the late 1930s. Fiennes plays Todd Jackson, an embittered former American diplomat who lost both his daughter and his eyes in a terrorist bombing, while Richardson is the titular figure, Sofia Belinsky, a Russian countess reduced to working as a dance-hall girl and prostitute in order to support her extended family, which includes her young daughter and several disapproving in-laws (two of whom are played by Vanessa and Lynn Redgrave in their first feature pairing).

The film concentrates on the friendly but formal relationship that develops between Jackson and Belinsky, one that turns deeper as he fulfills his dream of owning a swanky nightspot. Dubbing it "The White Countess" in her honor, he hires her as its chief hostess, and the business becomes a raging success. In the best tradition of foreign-set melodramas, their happiness becomes short-lived thanks to the unrest created by the impending Japanese invasion of the city.

Ishiguro's screenplay contains more than a few hokey moments and familiar elements, featuring influences ranging from "Casablanca" to his own "The Remains of the Day", but it manages to work nonetheless, aided in no small degree by the polished production and the committed performances. Fiennes, playing the sort of role that would have been essayed by Bogart, Gable or Cooper in their heyday, displays both his gift for incisive characterization and no small amount of movie star charisma. Richardson, though saddled with an accent that makes her unintelligible at times, is equally fine, showcasing her intelligence and sensuality in equal proportions.

Redgrave siblings Vanessa and Lynn clearly seem to be enjoying their onscreen time together, and such British thesps as John Wood, Madeleine Potter and Allan Corduner deliver vibrant turns in smaller roles. Hiroyuki Sanada, as Jackson's driver with a shady past, displays the subtle power that has made him a star in his native Japan.

The director has staged the elaborate production in his usual stately but impressive manner, and the production values boast the usual Merchant/Ivory stamp of quality.

The White Countess

Sony Pictures Classics

Credits:

Director: James Ivory

Screenplay by: Kazuo Ishiguro

Producers: Ismail Merchant, Andreas Grosch

Executive producers: Andre Morgan, Andreas Schmid, Marcus Schofer

Co-producers: Paul Bradley, Richard Hawley

Cinematographer: Christopher Doyle, Yiu-Fai Lai

Editor: John David Allen

Original music by: Richard Robbins

Production designer: Andrew Sanders

Cast:

Todd Jackson: Ralph Fiennes

Sofia Belinsky: Natasha Richardson

Sarah: Vanessa Redgrave

Olga: Lynn Redgrave

John Wood, Madeleine Potter

Samuel: Allan Corduner

Matsuda: Hiroyuki Sanada

No MPAA rating

Running time -- 138 minutes »

Permalink | Report a problem


The Island

3 August 2005 | The Hollywood Reporter - Movie News | See recent The Hollywood Reporter - Movie News news »

"The Island" starts off an aggressively derivative sci-fi thriller, then morphs into an above-average chase melodrama.

With a pair of classy actors, Ewan McGregor and Scarlett Johansson, aboard for the ride and director Michael Bay injecting high-octane fuel into the story's engine, the movie kicks into gear through a series of implausible though fun sequences of pursuit that utilize nearly all the movie action toys from digital effects to daunting stunts to massive sets and locations.

While entering the marketplace with less noise than "War of the Worlds" and "Fantastic Four", "The Island" should soak up much boxoffice coin in the coming weeks, both domestically and internationally.

For a while, the dystopian story about human cloning by Caspian Tredwell-Owen, Alex Kurtzman and Roberto Orci seems more likely to inspire viewer games of Spot the Movie Clone as the filmmakers shuffle through any number of old science-fiction movies for plot points and design ideas. These range from "Coma" to "Logan's Run". Since human cloning itself has become such a hot-button topic, the film feels contemporary. Even Kazuo Ishiguro's recently published novel, "Never Let Me Go", deals with a similar story minus, of course, the chases.

What's troubling from a political point of view is that these filmmakers have, perhaps unwittingly, delivered a film certain to give succor to the religious right. In this ethical horror story, scientists experimenting with human genetics to advance medicine and cure illness are cast as Dr. Frankenstein villains. The chief villain, Dr. Merrick (Sean Bean), mouths platitudes about curing leukemia but clearly has greed in his heart.

The early going sets up a humdrum, meticulously controlled environment where white-clad inhabitants lead aimless lives while supposedly being sheltered from worldwide contamination resulting from an ecological disaster. From the first moment, we know this is all a ruse. An omnipotent police force monitors every bodily function, obsesses over the "proximity" of males to females in the quasi-segregated population and refers to inhabitants behind their backs as "products."

Only when the curious and restless Lincoln Six Echo stumbles onto the truth about the facility, which 95% of the audience will already have guessed, and grabs his pal Jordan Two-Delta (Johansson) for his comrade-in-escape does the film take off. Fleeing the fake environment for the real world, the pair stumble into the Arizona desert with a private army led by ex-Special Forces commander Albert Laurent (Djimon Hounsou) in hot pursuit.

Their ace in the hole is a cynical but accepting worker at the facility, McCord (Steve Buscemi), who in the past has sneaked booze and other contraband to Lincoln. They track McCord to a desert bar and, feeling guilty about his involvement in the cloning enterprise, he agrees to help them.

There is an unfailing law of filmmaking that once Buscemi gets cast in a movie, all the best lines and comic business automatically gravitate to him. Here again he almost single-handedly jump-starts the movie. When he abruptly exits the picture, his presence is truly missed.

Two striking things animate the remainder of the picture. One is highly creative chases on freeways and airways of the future. In one, wheels on a big rig turn into lethal weapons. In another, a futuristic two-man flying machine slams into a glass skyscraper and ends up dangling out the other side, entangled in a sign.

The other gimmick has McGregor playing both the original Lincoln and his clone, one with a Scottish accent and the other American. In an amazing fight scene, using motion control cameras and careful physical movements, McGregor actually wrestles with himself.

McGregor and Johansson's characters comprise an impossible combination of innate smarts and born-yesterday naivete. Yet the young though veteran actors pull these conflicting conceits off with a fair amount of conviction and credibility.

Bay's team hits on all cylinders as designer Nigel Phelps captures the extremes of an ominous future, Steve Jablonsky's surging music urges the action on and Mauro Fiore's energetic cinematography blends nicely with the many digital effects.

The Island

DreamWorks Pictures

DreamWorks and Warner Bros. Pictures present a Parkes/MacDonald production

Credits: Director: Michael Bay; Writers: Caspian Tredwell-Owen, Alex Kurtzman & Roberto Orci; Story by: Caspian Tredwell-Owen; Producers: Walter Parkes, Michael Bay, Ian Bryce; Executive producer: Laurie MacDonald; Director of photography: Mauro Fiore; Production designer: Nigel Phelps; Music: Steve Jablonsky; Costumes: Deborah L. Scott; Editors: Paul Rubell, Christian Wagner. Cast: Lincoln Six Echo/Tom Lincoln: Ewan McGregor; Jordan Two Delta/Sarah Jordan: Scarlett Johansson; Albert Laurent: Djimon Hounsou; Dr. Merrick: Sean Bean; McCord: Steve Buscemi; Starkweather: Michael Clarke Duncan.

MPAA rating PG-13, running time 133 minutes. »

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Producer Ismail Merchant dies at 68

26 May 2005 | The Hollywood Reporter - Movie News | See recent The Hollywood Reporter - Movie News news »

Producer Ismail Merchant, whose adaptations of classic novels produced in collaboration with director James Ivory became virtually synonymous with literate, sumptuously appointed costume drama, died Wednesday in a London hospital. He was 68. He recently had undergone surgery for abdominal ulcers, according to Indian television reports cited by the Associated Press. Merchant, born in Bombay, India, was partnered with Ivory in Merchant Ivory Prods. for more than 44 years, making theirs one of the longest-running partnerships in independent cinema. Together, they created such lauded period dramas as the E.M. Forster adaptations Maurice (1987), A Room With a View (1985) and Howards End (1992) as well as 1993's The Remains of the Day, based on the Kazuo Ishiguro novel. Merchant Ivory Prods. made more than 40 films, in the process earning 31 Academy Award nominations, including three for best picture. From the start, German-born screenwriter Ruth Prawer Jhabvala was a key member of the team as writer on most of their films. A Merchant Ivory Production came to describe an entire movie genre: the impeccably mounted literary costume drama. »

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Producer Ismail Merchant dies at 68

26 May 2005 | The Hollywood Reporter - Movie News | See recent The Hollywood Reporter - Movie News news »

Producer Ismail Merchant, whose adaptations of classic novels produced in collaboration with director James Ivory became virtually synonymous with literate, sumptuously appointed costume drama, died Wednesday in a London hospital. He was 68. He recently had undergone surgery for abdominal ulcers, according to Indian television reports cited by the Associated Press. Merchant, born in Bombay, India, was partnered with Ivory in Merchant Ivory Prods. for more than 44 years, making theirs one of the longest-running partnerships in independent cinema. Together, they created such lauded period dramas as the E.M. Forster adaptations Maurice (1987), A Room With a View (1985) and Howards End (1992) as well as 1993's The Remains of the Day, based on the Kazuo Ishiguro novel. Merchant Ivory Prods. made more than 40 films, in the process earning 31 Academy Award nominations, including three for best picture. From the start, German-born screenwriter Ruth Prawer Jhabvala was a key member of the team as writer on most of their films. A Merchant Ivory Production came to describe an entire movie genre: the impeccably mounted literary costume drama. »

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Producer Ismail Merchant dies at 68

26 May 2005 | The Hollywood Reporter - Movie News | See recent The Hollywood Reporter - Movie News news »

Producer Ismail Merchant, whose adaptations of classic novels produced in collaboration with director James Ivory became virtually synonymous with literate, sumptuously appointed costume drama, died Wednesday in a London hospital. He was 68. He recently had undergone surgery for abdominal ulcers, according to Indian television reports cited by the Associated Press. Merchant, born in Bombay, India, was partnered with Ivory in Merchant Ivory Prods. for more than 44 years, making theirs one of the longest-running partnerships in independent cinema. Together, they created such lauded period dramas as the E.M. Forster adaptations Maurice (1987), A Room With a View (1985) and Howards End (1992) as well as 1993's The Remains of the Day, based on the Kazuo Ishiguro novel. Merchant Ivory Prods. made more than 40 films, in the process earning 31 Academy Award nominations, including three for best picture. From the start, German-born screenwriter Ruth Prawer Jhabvala was a key member of the team as writer on most of their films. A Merchant Ivory Production came to describe an entire movie genre: the impeccably mounted literary costume drama. »

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Hay literary fest gets film fever

17 February 2005 | The Hollywood Reporter - Movie News | See recent The Hollywood Reporter - Movie News news »

LONDON -- The Guardian Hay Festival said Wednesday that this year's 19th edition will include a film festival, with guests including Jane Fonda, Goldie Hawn and Spike Lee. Primarily a literary festival, the annual event at Hay-on-Wye in Wales attracts as many as 90,000 visitors for 10 days of talks, seminars, discussions, lectures and now screenings. Film Four and Arts & Business will sponsor the screenings, which will take place in Hay Castle, organizers said. There also will be a series of master classes and documentaries. Novelists expected this year include Ian McEwan, Kazuo Ishiguro and Philip Pullman, with such journalists as Maureen Dowd and Christopher Hitchens and academics including John Sutherland and Peggy Reynolds also on hand. The Hay Festival runs May 27-June 5. »

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8 items from 2005


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