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2 items from 2006


The White Countess

10 January 2006 | The Hollywood Reporter | See recent The Hollywood Reporter 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

4 January 2006 | The Hollywood Reporter | See recent The Hollywood Reporter 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


2016 | 2015 | 2014 | 2013 | 2012 | 2011 | 2010 | 2009 | 2008 | 2006 | 2005

2 items from 2006


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