Ralph FiennesDespite the death of Ishmael Merchant earlier this year, his partner James Ivory is still hard at work making the pair's special brand of classy English flicks. Merchant-Ivory's latest effort, The White Countess, stars Ralph Fiennes and Natasha Richardson, and is set in 1930s Shanghai. Fiennes plays "a disillusioned former US diplomat" (with a weird accent), while Richardson gets to be exiled Russian royalty.

Sony has just rolled out the trailer, which, while it's unlikely to bring in anyone not previously interested in Merchant-Ivory, is nevertheless pretty encouraging to those of us who are suckers for period films full of repressed emotions. In addition to the solid cast (along with Fiennes and Richardson, it also features a fleet of Redgraves), there are a lot of big names associated with The White Countess: the screenplay was written by novelist Kazuo Ishiguro, and it was shot by Christopher Doyle.

The US release date is an Oscar-friendly December 21, so don't be surprised to see screenwriting, cinematography, or supporting nominations when the time comes - the Academy loves it some Merchant-Ivory.