The Last Station starring Christopher Plummer and Helen Mirren (2009)
The Countess Sofya, wife and muse to Leo Tolstoy, uses every trick of seduction on her husband’s loyal disciple, whom she believes was the person responsible for Tolstoy signing a new will that leaves his work and property to the Russian people. Great historical and biographical presentation nominated for many awards.
The White Countess by James Ivory, starring Ralph Fiennes, Natasha Richardson, Vanessa Redgrave, Lynn Redgrave, and Hiroyuki Sanada (2005)
This romantic drama, set in China in the mid-1930s, focuses on Sofia Belinsky (Natasha Richardson), a Russian countess who supports her exiled family by working as a club dancer and prostitute. She finds an unlikely savior in Todd Jackson (Ralph Fiennes), a blind American diplomat determined to open a nightclub in Shanghai with the countess as his hostess and untouchable love object. In one of her final film performances, Natasha Richardson — acting with her mother, Vanessa Redgrave, who plays her aunt, and her aunt Lynn Redgrave, who plays her mother — finds the story’s grieving heart. Fiennes is her match in soulful artistry. The White Countess was sadly the last film from producer Ismail Merchant, who died in May 2005. It proves a stirring tribute to Merchant, a true builder of dreams in an industry now sorely bereft of his unique spirit.
Bread and Tulips (Pane e Tulipani) (2000)
When an Italian housewife Rosalba (Licia Maglietta) suddenly finds herself stranded, she realizes that perhaps she is not as appreciated by her family as she would like to be. All she sees is the tour bus moving off into the distance and then realizes her son has changed his cell phone number so she is unable to stop the bus. Feeling adventurous and a little resentful, she decides to hitch a ride and ends up in Venice with very little money. After finding a job in a florist shop, she moves in with a waiter named Fernando (who is just about to kill himself, it seems) and meets Grazia who bursts into her life asking her to help with a plumbing disaster.
Back home, Rosalba’s husband starts to notice that things are not getting done around his house, so he hires Costantino (Giuseppe Battiston) as his private detective. This is where it becomes more of a comedy of sorts as Costantino is really a plumber who sets off determined to find Rosalba and return her to her husband. An enjoyable escape that really keeps your full attention, actress Licia Maglietta is pure magic in this winner of 9 David di Donatello (Italian Academy) Awards.