Who's in It:
Ralph Fiennes, Natasha Richardson, Vanessa Redgrave, Lynn Redgrave
The Basics: It's 1936 in Shanghai, and a blind former diplomat (Fiennes) obsessed with the idea of opening the perfect nightclub meets an exiled Russian countess (Richardson) reduced to supporting her horrible family by taxi-dancing (that's what they used to call it when women danced with men in nightclubs for money) and occasional trick-turning. So yeah, it's a Merchant Ivory exercise in elegance about the tragedy of rich people lost and adrift between wars. But surprise, it's not boring at all.
What's the Deal? This is the kind of movie aimed directly at old people, and that's kind of a shame, because marketing robots assume that if you're under 40, you don't care about historical dramas about deposed aristocrats and their tragic romances. OK, yes, people under 40 mostly don't care about stuff like that. But it's their loss for being too dumb to care.
Learn the Name of a Great Cinematographer: Today at Movies.com University, you should memorize the name of Christopher Doyle. He's the guy who makes Wong Kar Wai's movies look so incredible that you want to eat them. He did that for this one, too.
Class Is Still in Session: And it was written by Kazuo Ishiguro, who wrote the novel The Remains of the Day, which was turned into another Merchant Ivory movie. He also wrote the screenplay for the very odd The Saddest Music in the World. You should see that one because Isabella Rossellini walks around with beer-filled glass legs in it.
Sad Footnote: Producer Ismail Merchant died just as this movie was being completed.