The White Countess

Rated NR

In the final Merchant Ivory production, due to Ismail Merchant’s death last year, the filmmaking icons stay true to their impeccable reputation. This time, the typical leading underdog is Todd Jackson (Ralph Fiennes), a U.S. diplomat in 1930s Shanghai who was destined for greatness but instead fell victim to a tragedy that has left him blind and without a family. However, a Merchant Ivory-created character is never knocked down that easily, and Jackson relentlessly pursues his dreams of hanging up his diplomatic hat and owning a nightclub. Despite the political pressures of an upcoming Japanese invasion, Jackson’s idealized plan becomes a reality with the unexpected help and romance from another Merchant Ivory character that embodies determination while battling life’s misfortunes. Natasha Richardson plays this widowed beacon of hope who adamantly supports her late husband’s upper-class family (Vanessa and Lynn Redgrave) regardless of the harsh disapproval they throw at her from earning their money as a private dancer and prostitute. Filled with the compelling juxtaposition between conflict and hopeful resolution, this film is a memorable and poignant piece of work.

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