A Merchant Ivory Production
In this final collaboration between legendary producer Ismail Merchant and director James Ivory, three time OscarÂ® nominees for best picture and best director (A Room With A View, 1986; Howard's End, 1993; The Remains Of The Day, 1994) China provides the backdrop for this drama of exile, longing and love's triumph over adversity, written by the prize winning author Kazuo Ishiguro (The Remains Of The Day).
The White Countess takes place in the glamorous, corrupt and boomtown atmosphere of 30s Shanghai that is soon to be swept away by advancing Japanese armies and civil war. At its center is the blind American diplomat Todd Jackson played by Ralph Fiennes, two time OscarÂ® nominee (Best Actor, The English Patient, 1997; Best Supporting Actor, Schindler's List, 1994) and Sofia Belinskaya played by Natasha Richardson (Patty Hearst, Maid In Manhattan), a refuge Russian aristocrat making a living in a taxi dancehall and as an occasional prostitute. Jackson, aided by his mysterious Japanese friend, the spy Matsuda (Hiroyuki Sanada: Twilight Samurai, The Last Samurai), opens a successful nightclub and installs the countess Sofia as its centerpiece.
In the spectacular mass exodus from the city which is the climax of the film, Sofia is abandoned by her in laws, played by the Redgrave sisters, multiple nominee Vanessa (Vera Belinskaya, OscarÂ® winner, Julia, Best Supporting Actress, 1978) and Lynn (aunt Olga, two time OscarÂ® nominee, Best Actress, George Girl, 1967; Best Supporting Actress, Gods & Monsters, 1999), who secretly try to flee with Sofia's small daughter, Katya.
In the end mother and daughter are reunited, as Sofia and Jackson, realizing their growing love for each other escape with Katya to the safety of Macao.