The Portuguese colony of Macao in the 19th century. Mr. Clay is a very rich merchant and the subject of town gossip. He has spent many years in China and is now quite old. He likes his ... See full summary »
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The Portuguese colony of Macao in the 19th century. Mr. Clay is a very rich merchant and the subject of town gossip. He has spent many years in China and is now quite old. He likes his clerk Levinsky to read the company's accounts to him at night for relaxation. Tonight Mr. Clay recounts a true story he heard years before about a rich man who paid a poor sailor 5 guineas to father a child with his beautiful young wife. Levinsky says that's a popular old sailor's legend and not true. Mr. Clay has no heir for his fortune and no wife either. He resolves to make the story true... Levinsky approaches Virginie, another clerk's mistress, and strikes a bargain for 300 guineas. Now to find the sailor... Written by
Orson Welles originally planned for this film to be made as part of an anthology of adaptations of stories by Karen Blixen. Originally made for French TV, it was later released in theaters. This movie is available on DVD from The Criterion Collection. See more »
It is very hard on people who want things so badly that they can't do without them. If they can't get these things, it is very hard. And when they do get them, surely it is very hard.
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Orson Welles directs based on a novel by Isak Dinesen a story about an Ebenezer Scrooge type, the miserly rich old man who doesn't believe in stories and prophecies, who hears a story about a sailor picked up by an old man in a harbor to sleep with a beautiful woman and decides to make the story happen in real life, "so that at least one sailor can tell it from beginning to end, like it happened". This is like an essay on fiction, or like a charcoal sketch, except the charcoal in Welles' hand leaves smudges and we get those smudges as handprints on the canvas because The Immortal Story seems to talk about the anxieties of a storyteller and a magician but also of an aging man and an exile. In parts of the static, dour, style, he channels Bergman, old Dreyer, Beckett, his own work, there's a beautiful piano accompaniment and Jeanne Moreau, in her Pierre Cardin attires, looks ravished and ravishing at the same time. In the end the story is reenacted for the old man's benefit and to his satisfaction, but the sailor leaving the mansion refuses to tell it to anyone because who would believe him anyway. Perhaps Welles is telling us that some things, the important ones in life, we tell as stories because no one would believe us otherwise, so that in the world of imagination they can become as real and so communicate their truth, and inversely that perhaps all stories in the world happened somewhere to someone in some form, and we only hear their echo through the centuries. Or even that we're all as characters in a story, moving at the bidding of a higher authority that pulls the strings, but it's our right and choice to tell our story or not. Food for thought.
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