The White Countess

The White Countess Image
Metascore
60

Mixed or average reviews - based on 30 Critics What's this?

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7.5

Generally favorable reviews- based on 11 Ratings

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  • Starring: , ,
  • Summary: Shanghai, 1936 was a crossroads for political intrigue, refugees escaping turmoil, gathering military forces, international business and underworld culture. Two people caught in this maelstrom forge a bond on the brink of the Japanese invasion: a beautiful Russian countess (Richardson),Shanghai, 1936 was a crossroads for political intrigue, refugees escaping turmoil, gathering military forces, international business and underworld culture. Two people caught in this maelstrom forge a bond on the brink of the Japanese invasion: a beautiful Russian countess (Richardson), reduced by circumstances to supporting her family as a bar girl and taxi dancer, and a blind former diplomat (Fiennes), devastated by the loss of his family in political violence and disillusioned by the world's inability to make peace. The story revolves around "The White Countess," the elegant nightclub created by the diplomat to shut out the chaos and tragedy that surround him. (Sony Pictures Classics) Expand

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Score distribution:
  1. Positive: 17 out of 30
  2. Negative: 0 out of 30
  1. 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.
  2. Fiennes's performance, tricky and impassioned, is the showpiece.
  3. Reviewed by: Claudia Puig
    75
    The film takes a long time to unfold, and some scenes feel inert. But ultimately, the conclusion is moving and satisfying.
  4. 70
    As with so many Merchant-Ivory films, The White Countess glides along on restrained, skillful performances and tapestry-rich cinematography, but its beating heart lies deep below the surface, where only determined viewers will find it.
  5. 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.
  6. 50
    Ivory's last minute decision to render his hero sightless may make certain symbolic sense, but creates an even greater distance between Jackson and the woman he must inevitably come to love; their dull self-restraint makes "The Remains of the Day" look like soft-core porn.
  7. Despite its brilliant evocation of this great city at this most provocative time in history, the movie just gets sillier and sillier.

See all 30 Critic Reviews

Score distribution:
  1. Positive: 3 out of 5
  2. Negative: 0 out of 5
  1. [Anonymous]
    Dec 30, 2005
    9
    Beautiful atmosphere, great acting. Fiennes and Richardson never overact, and it's wonderful to watch.
  2. OlegM.
    Jan 2, 2006
    8
    Guys, listen up! If you plan to go to the movies with your date: this is a perfect one. It's exotic (in a sense that you can discuss Guys, listen up! If you plan to go to the movies with your date: this is a perfect one. It's exotic (in a sense that you can discuss it), protracted (plenty of time of checking your date's profile in the dark theatre), romantical (r.fiennes and natasha richardson make such an appealing couple) and so un-american (little violence and even less sex makes it refreshing). Again: don't watch it on your own; get a date with a russian girl and see it with her. Good luck! Collapse
  3. BobC
    Sep 28, 2006
    6
    This was a very good 100 minute movie. Unfortunately at least 36 minutes of extraneous and unnecessary material was left attached. As a This was a very good 100 minute movie. Unfortunately at least 36 minutes of extraneous and unnecessary material was left attached. As a result, the first two-thirds of the movie moved way too slowly. Fiennes and especially the gorgeous Richardson were quite good in their respective roles. Expand
  4. MarkB.
    Feb 7, 2006
    5
    Before a preview of Pulp Fiction, Quentin Tarantino once asked an audience who among them had seen and liked the Ismail Merchant-James Ivory Before a preview of Pulp Fiction, Quentin Tarantino once asked an audience who among them had seen and liked the Ismail Merchant-James Ivory production The Remains of the Day, and then famously (or infamously) invited all those who responded affirmatively to get lost immediately. In addition to revealing his own tastes (as if you couldn't have guessed) Tarantino was strongly suggesting that those who loved one film will hate the other. Well, I'm a big fan of both The Remains of the Day AND Pulp Fiction, and as such I think Tarantino's blanket dismissal by implication of the entire Merchant-Ivory catalog displays as narrowminded and simplistic a view as that expressed by those who refuse to even consider watching Switchblade Sisters, Master of the Flying Guillotine or any of the other genre and/or exploitation films QT salivates over. Sadly, though, producer Merchant's and director Ivory's final effort (Merchant died last year) gives Tarantino's generalizations about their work undue credence; it's good-looking but overlong, unfocused, diffuse and a far cry from the glory days of Remains, A Room With a View and Howards End. Like Remains (based on a novel by Kazuo Ishiguro, who wrote this film's screenplay), The White Countess deals with the gathering forces that would lead to World War II (Remains poignantly concerned itself with the Nazi influence; Countess with the Japanese presence in China)...and, more specifically, with the prickly, would-be romance between its male and female leads that's continually thwarted both by historical obstacles and by the man's own reticence. Ralph Fiennes plays a blind ex-diplomat (Ooooh! Obvious symbolism, kids!) who enters into a business relationship with an impoverished Russian countess (Natasha Richardson); both go in on an elaborate nightclub. Movies about the ramblings of self-pitying bar owners are risky propositions: when done right you get Casablanca, when less so, the result is a film like this that eventuaslly becomes as tedious as listening to a drunk for several hours. The poorly timed, staged and edited final half hour, when the shoe drops and the invaders attack, doesn't help matters much; if there's a director you DON'T want to entrust action sequences to, it's Ivory! At the end of the day, I suppose there are far worse things you could be doing with your moviegoing time than watch the almost unbearably beautiful Richardson in a variety of clingy evening gowns, even if both she and Fiennes are noticeably stuggling with their accents while she's wearing them. On the other hand, Vanessa Redgrave (Natasha's real-life mom) and Lynn Redgrave (her aunt) as ungrateful family members represent stunt casting at its least effective; I hope they enjoyed the experience of filming together but on this evidence would suggest that future family reunions stay out of camera range. Expand
  5. PatG.
    Jan 12, 2006
    4
    I'm sorry. I went to this film with high hopes. I like literary films and all of the Regrave clan. But the movie was plain boring most I'm sorry. I went to this film with high hopes. I like literary films and all of the Regrave clan. But the movie was plain boring most of the time. Flat and slow. It perked up a bit in the last 45 minutes or so because of the action on screen. And I'm afraid that Ralph Feinnes is just wooden. A real dissappointment. Expand

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