The White Countess Reviews
Set in 1930s Shanghai, where a blind American diplomat develops a curious relationship with a young Russian refugee who works odd -- and sometimes illicit -- jobs to support members of her dead husband's aristocratic family.
Ralph Fiennes: Todd Jackson
Natasha Richardson: Countess Sofia Belinskya
Countess may be very, very slow. but its wonderfully rich visuals and smashing English performances make it the perfect patient man's period film, As mentioned, you must have a lot of glorious patience to make it to that fulfilling conclusion.
Marveled at the cinematography, the great sets, the muted and beautiful fliar of colours.
This Ishiguro story is set in mid-to-late '30s in Shanghai. Ralph Fiennes plays a blind American, Todd Jackson, an ex-diplomat who wants to get away from politics and run the nightclub of his dreams. He has the whole place mapped out in his head. Natasha Richardson as Countess Sofia Belinskya is a high-class escort-service type woman working in a lower-class bar who unselfishly sacrifices her dignity to help support her unappreciative family.
Todd and Sofia meet one day in that bar, he is very impressed with her, and later hires her to run his new place, called The White Countess, hence the film's clever title. Along the way, Todd meets a Japanese man Mr. Matsuda, who we find out isn't the altogether nice guy we thought he was, as it's revealed trouble always follows him.
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.
In the end, this drama comes to life as the Japanese overrun the city and everyone flees for their life. Sofia's family tries to leave without her. The countess desperately goes after them because that family includes her precious young daughter. Fiennes realizes, at the last minute, he doesn't want to live life without Sofia and she he tries to find her among all the chaos. It's a very suspenseful, very positive ending.
White Countess is underrated, under-publicized and a beautifully executed piece. Reminded me of the beautiful Painted Veil.
Written by Ishiguro and directed by James Ivory- a director of considerable merit- the movie is a tale set in Shanghai in the 30‚(TM)s. It‚(TM)s basically a twisted love story between Todd (Ralph Fiennes), an American diplomat and Sofia (Natasha Richardson), a young Russian woman of noble descent. Sofia is a refugee who managed to escape the eventual death her former nobility would have brought in Communist Russia.
The set-up is interesting, the themes fascinating, the creative team impressive, the cast okay except for Fiennes, but the storytelling is dreadfully tedious, stiff and constantly off pace. At times the effort behind the film seems half-hearted and at other times there is a sense of trying too hard. I can‚(TM)t decide which one is the real problem behind ‚The White Countess,‚? a mix of wonderful components assembled together by a talented creative team with near-lackluster results.