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The White Countess

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United Kingdom, Germany, China · 2005
Rated PG-13 · 2h 15m
Director James Ivory
Starring Ralph Fiennes, Natasha Richardson, Hiroyuki Sanada, Lynn Redgrave
Genre Drama, Family, History, Romance

In 1930s Shanghai, blind American ex-diplomat Todd Jackson is a frequenter of the city's nightclubs and gambling houses. He is infatuated with Sofia, a once-wealthy countess who has taken prostitution to support herself. With his earnings, Todd opens an upscale nightclub to cater to Shanghai's wealthy elite, installing Sofia as its hostess and spiritual muse.

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Los Angeles Times by Carina Chocano

The White Countess takes place in a fascinating time and place, rife with conflict and turmoil. But to watch Fiennes float (and Richardson trudge) through it all, absorbed in themselves and their own private misery, is to wish they'd started falling earlier, if only to knock some sense into them.


USA Today by Claudia Puig

The film takes a long time to unfold, and some scenes feel inert. But ultimately, the conclusion is moving and satisfying.


The Hollywood Reporter by Frank Scheck

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.


New York Daily News by Jack Mathews

In any case, the movie moves only when she's (Richardson) in the center of it, and her complex performance as a woman balancing her dignity with her survival instincts is one of the year's very best.


Variety by Justin Chang

This final production from the team of James Ivory and the late Ismail Merchant is itself adrift in more ways than one, with a literate but meandering script by "The Remains of the Day" novelist Kazuo Ishiguro that withholds emotional payoffs to an almost perverse degree.


Chicago Tribune by Michael Wilmington

It's a very classy, finely made film, and, as one watches it -- particularly those last sweeping scenes of political turbulence and escape -- one feels both pain at their (Merchant-Ivory) parting and grateful for what, together, they achieved.


Chicago Sun-Times by Roger Ebert

Fiennes and Richardson make this film work with the quiet strangeness of their performances; if they insist on their eccentricities, it's because they've paid them off and own them outright.

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