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The White Countess

 (177)
6.52 h 15 min2005PG
Set in 1930s Shanghai, a blind American diplomat (Ralph Fiennes) develops a curious relationship with a young Russian refugee (Natasha Richardson) who works odd - and sometimes illicit - jobs to support members of her dead husband's aristocratic family.
Directors
James Ivory
Starring
Ralph FiennesNatasha RichardsonVanessa Redgrave
Genres
RomanceDrama
Subtitles
English [CC]
Audio Languages
English
Rentals include 30 days to start watching this video and 48 hours to finish once started.
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More details

Supporting actors
Lynn RedgraveHiroyuki Sanada
Producers
Ismail Merchant
Studio
Sony Pictures Classics
Purchase rights
Stream instantly Details
Format
Prime Video (streaming online video)
Devices
Available to watch on supported devices

Other formats

Reviews

4.3 out of 5 stars

177 global ratings

  1. 59% of reviews have 5 stars
  2. 24% of reviews have 4 stars
  3. 9% of reviews have 3 stars
  4. 5% of reviews have 2 stars
  5. 4% of reviews have 1 stars
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Top reviews from the United Kingdom

Mervyn CapelReviewed in the United Kingdom on 10 February 2018
5.0 out of 5 stars
Natasha Richardson Radiant in Truly Moving Drama
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Unlike the other Merchant Ivory films I've seen, this one seemed less concerned with recreating an historical period, more with presenting a compelling human drama. This is due in part to the fact that it isn't based on a novel by Henry James or EM Forster, partly because it's set later in time, in the years immediately before the fall of Shanghai to the Japanese.
There's nothing glamorous here about 1930s Shanghai: it seems gloomy & wintry & the street scenes could have been filmed anywhere.
The vibrancy this bleak but ultimately uplifting film possesses comes almost entirely from one performance: Natasha Richardson is utterly delightful as the 'White Countess' of the title......her finest performance. Knowing that she died not that long after this film was made adds to its poignancy.
Ralph Fiennes, Alan Corduner, John Wood, the Redgrave sisters...all give sterling performances, as do the young girl playing the Countess' daughter & the Japanese actor playing the manipulative "diplomat" from Tokyo, but at the end of the day, it's Natasha's film. I came upon it purely by chance, and I loved it!
5 people found this helpful
Ian aka PanchangReviewed in the United Kingdom on 08 June 2020
5.0 out of 5 stars
A BEAUTIFUL MOVIE
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WITH RALPH FIENNES AND NATASHA RICHARDSON IT IS THE 1930s SHANGHAI SET AT THE START OF THE RISE OF JAPAN. RALPH FIENNES PLAYS AN EX U.S. DIPLOMAT WHO WAS BLINDED IN AN ACCIDENT, WHILE NATASHA RICHARDSON PLAY A RUSSIAN PRINCESS LIVING IN SHANGHAI AFTER THE SOVIET REVOLUTION. SHE WORKS AS AN HOSTESS TO SUPPORT HER FAMILY. SHE IS ASKED TO WORK FOR RALPH FIENNES AS HOSTESS IN HIS OWN BAR WHERE A RELATIONSHIP DEVELOPS DURING THE EVACUATION FROM SHANGHAI TO HONGKONG. I THROUGHLY GOOD FILM WITH MINIMAL VIOLENCE AND NO BAD LANGUAGE. WELL WORTH A WATCH
One person found this helpful
AnneReviewed in the United Kingdom on 17 June 2011
3.0 out of 5 stars
The White Countess
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I really did not enjoy the film. I am a great fan of Ralph Fiennes and the Redgrave family of actors and thought they did as well as they could with a weak story and dialogue. The displaced family, to me, was not at all believable and their actions were completely devoid of any love or compassion for the person (Miranda Richardson) who made it possible for them to exist. A family of Russian aristocrats who would not, or could not find work for themselves and made life miserable for the one that did, while excepting her money and ridiculing her way of providing it. If this family portrays the aristos in Russia I can clearly see why there was a revolution. Fiennes and Richardson did a good job, but there was very little spark between them. Fiennes was an ex American State Department diplomat and is blind and trying to engage the help of Richardson in opening a night club in Shanghai. The story ends with Fiennes and Richardson along with her little girl hopefully escaping Shanghai before the Japanese attack the city. I hope they made it - it would at least be one bright spot in a gloomy film. Three stars for the sets, costumes, and scenery.
2 people found this helpful
Andrew N. VargoReviewed in the United Kingdom on 24 March 2009
5.0 out of 5 stars
The White Countess
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Natasha Richardson held this film together, a difficult task as the viewer is presented with a wide range of historical events and a complex plot. With a great sense of timing Natasha takes us through the film and helps explain the relationships with her family, who to only add to the complexity include her real mother [Vanessa Redgrave} and her sister Lynn Redgrave who both gave stunning performances. Ralph Fiennes is at hand as a totally believable blind entrepreneur who attempts to create a night club which is a refuge from the ensuing madness of the Sino-Japanese War and precursor to the Second World War. His relationship with his clients acts as an insight into the wider issues taking place outside of the night club. The role of Hiroyuki Sanada and the friendship which develops between him and Ralph Fiennes is a fascinating study of how personal relationships can become totally messed up by world events.
The convincing portrayal of how a very wealthy family try to cope in extreme poverty is played out by the real Redgrave family and the intimate knowledge they have of one another is captured on screen. It is worth watching just for these vignettes , the three actors offer a performance of family life rarely captured on film.
57 people found this helpful
WestfieldReviewed in the United Kingdom on 17 August 2020
5.0 out of 5 stars
Lovely film
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A beautiful film. Wonderful acting from the Redgraves but said to see Natasha on screen but how beautiful she was.
One person found this helpful
Douglas CameronReviewed in the United Kingdom on 26 May 2009
4.0 out of 5 stars
Well worth seeing and owning to be seen again.
Verified purchase
There is not much I can say to add to Andrew N. Vargo's fine and accurate review, except to say what wonderful direction by James Ivory. He encouraged the best performances from this talented group of actors in what must have been very unusual circumstances as he had three members of the same family working together, without one trying to out-do the others!

Also without the amazing cinematography by Christopher Doyle, the film would not have so much impact.

I hope you treat yourself to watching this romantic drama.
18 people found this helpful
Ruairi O NeillReviewed in the United Kingdom on 17 January 2021
5.0 out of 5 stars
DVD arrived earlier than expected
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I saw this movie a while ago on tv by myself and thought, my wife would love it, so I bought it and we both watched it together, she loved it as well!
SeaGoat under SiriusReviewed in the United Kingdom on 08 December 2017
4.0 out of 5 stars
Curiously good, off-beat ... what we lost when the lead actress died prematurely on that ski slope
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Curiously good, off-beat drama that reminds us what we lost when the lead actress died prematurely on that ski slope. Alas, even though RF is always watchable he needs to ask Al Pacino how to do 'blind'
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