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'White Countess': Fitting Merchant-Ivory Finale

The White Goddess is the last film made by Ismail Merchant and James Ivory before Merchant's death.

Set in Shanghai on the eve of World War II, the film stars Ralph Fiennes as a blind diplomat and Natasha Richardson as a White Russian refugee.

Critic Bob Mondello says the movie is a fittingly literate end to the Merchant-Ivory partnership.

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Bob Mondello, who jokes that he was a jinx at the beginning of his critical career — hired to write for every small paper that ever folded in Washington, just as it was about to collapse — saw that jinx broken in 1984 when he came to NPR.