Thursday 30th March
Cinema - The White Countess

In May last year, during the making of The White Countess, Ismail Merchant died in London after an operation on his stomach. And so the film became the last in a long line of co-productions from Merchant and his (life and business) partner James Ivory. The couple met at a screening of Ivory’s film The Sword and the Flute in 1960. Within a year they had set up a company together, within three they had put out their first movie The Householder, which like so many, was set in Merchant’s homeland, India. It wasn’t until 1979, when they adapted the Henry James novel The Bostonians, that they found their most successful stock-in-trade: period movie adaptations of 19th century novels. Subsequently, films like A Room with a View, Maurice and Howard’s End established them as A-list Hollywood icons. Their adaptation of Kazuo Ishiguro’s novel The Remains of the Day was nominated eight times in the 1994 Oscars.

The White Countess is based on a screenplay by Ishiguro. It stars Ralph Fiennes as a blind diplomat who falls in love with Natasha Richardson’s fallen-on-hard-times Russian countess. It is set in 1930’s Shanghai, prior to the Japanese invasion of China. As usual it is sumptuously shot, and cleverly acted. It is unlikely, however, to be remembered in years to come as anything but the last Merchant-Ivory co-production. Critics seem to be split in their appraisal. Positive reviews mention the film’s slow, meditative pace. Village Voice calls it ‘irredeemably dull’.

Russian roulette: Ralph Fiennes forms a dangerous liason with the
White Countess
The Picture House, Uckfield
When? 2:30pm; 5:45pm; 8:20pm
How Much? Adult £5.80; Child £4; Senior £4.80
Official Website
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Uckfield Picture House
(t) 01825 764909
(w) Website