The White Countess

Novelist Kazuo Ishiguro, former grouse-beater for the Queen Mother, tries to drive an Oscar from the Hollywood moors by writing this original screenplay for the celebrated Merchant Ivory production team. Ismail Merchant’s death in May makes The White Countess the duo’s final production, and it’s a strange one. Against the backdrop of pre-World War II Shanghai, a blind diplomat struggles to keep his sanity after the death of his family. He falls in with a disgraced Russian countess who supports her family by working for tips in a sordid nightclub. The Redgrave women (Natasha Richardson, mother Vanessa, and aunt Lynn), Hiroyuki Sanada (the “Tom Cruise of Japan”), and Ralph Fiennes, in his sixth film of the year, give this bizarre and complex tale a sheen of elegance.