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 »
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 Isak Dinesen. Originally made for French TV, it was later released in theaters.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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A number of people who have reviewed this here have watched this film over and over, but I think once has proved enough for me. While it is only an hour, it moves slowly, and while there is an appealing oddness to the proceedings I was never caught up in it. The basic idea is intriguing (less so if you read the reviews here, many of which give away more than they should) and Moreau is quite affecting, but I find the glowing comments of other viewers downright peculiar.
To me, this feels like an adaptation of a story (by Isaac Dineson) that would probably be better read. A tremendous amount of voice over commentary and soliloquies are threaded through, and my feeling is if you need this many words to tell a story, it is probably not a good film story.
Like everything by Welles, it is worth watching. While it feels cheaply made, it still exhibits his sense of composition and his unique sensibility. But ultimately it's not especially good (at least based on one viewing) and certainly far from Welles' great works.
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