The Immortal Story (TV Movie 1968) Poster

(1968 TV Movie)

User Reviews

Review this title
27 Reviews
Sort by:
Filter by Rating:
Welles' genius enlivens stilted literary source material.
alice liddell23 August 1999
Initially, this film might seem dismayingly disappointing. Based on an Isak Dinesen novel, it appears not to transcend its literary origins. Narrative and dialogue are quoted verbatim (and often mumbled or too fast) to accompanying pictures. The pacing is very slow for a Welles film, with little of his trademark, disruptive editing. The symbolism seems literary, rather than cinematic.

And yet the film is, under this surface, recognisably Wellesian - the old man who has amassed great wealth at the expense of an emotional life, who seeks to control others; the use of storytelling as a metaphor; the idea of the author as a repressive God, who makes his characters conform to his will; the subsequent destruction of the author who uses his power to repress, not express, or create, who does not realise that making a story 'real', in the fatuous hope for immortality, can only mean that the author becomes superfluous; the loyal assistant/friend whose life has been emotionally deadened by the need to serve (and suppress moral qualms about) the great man; the tone of the film, nocturnal, quiet, still, cicadas resounding, suffused with sterility and death.

Even the look of the film, seemingly precious and over-formal, is quietly Wellesian (no, not an oxymoron!) - the use of locale as a private labyrinth (there is very little of the Orient here, in spite of attempts at local colour - its anguish is very European and decadent); the idea of the dark, fettered house as a figure for the mind or the soul; the use of found locations, especially old buildings, suggesting older, better, nobler days, also irremovable reminders of decline; the restrained bursts of disruptive editing in the elegant design; the deep-focus long-shots form distorted angles, revealing characters to be mere pawns, geometric shapes in a total, hostile design; the idea of the film being the final dream of a dying man. There is also, in Welles' first non-black-and-white film, a gorgeous use of deep colours.

The thrust of the film remains too literary to be a total success, but it is exquisitely beautiful and mournful. All three characters are locked in typical Wellesian solipsism, all are alone, creating myths and stories to cover up the truth of their own failure to shore against the ruins. The thwarted possibility of escape only makes the entrapment all the more suffocating. And yet, there is an otherworldly quality to the central bedroom sequence, aided by Jeanne Moreau's astonishing performance, that raises the film into the realm of the magical. The rarefied atmosphere of the film is thus entirely appropriate.
45 out of 47 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
a minor work from Welles that contains a lot under the surface, and a superb Moreau
MisterWhiplash7 February 2007
If it weren't for popping up once on TCM and by chance getting to tape it, I'm not sure if I would ever see the Immortal Story due to its lack of circulation. Not too ironic, or a coincidence more likely, to what the film is about. In line with a couple of Welles's other works like Mr. Arkadin and F For Fake, The Immortal Story is about storytelling, or how extraordinary things that happen are sometimes less so when taken into account for what's really underneath them- the person telling it, or being told it, and if it really makes sense or sounds like it isn't b.s.

Welles's character Mr. Clay, taken from a novel by Isak Denison, probably doesn't have any good stories to tell, and more than likely doesn't like hearing them. "I don't like pretense, and I don't like prophecy. I want facts," he says to his butler/servant Levinsky (Robert Croggio), and after so much time hearing his company's accounts and finances- a very empty task for a codger like Clay to hear- he decides on something that might get the juices going in his head, to make real a story that's been told many many times, about the sailor getting paid by some rich man to sleep with his wife. It isn't 'Indecent Proposal', however, as Moreau's character happens to be in her own was as notorious as Clay, and has a history of sorts with Clay and her family.

Matter of fact, the main thrust of Immortal Story is that stories are never fool-proof, and that's what makes them interesting/fun to those who hear them for years and years; it can't *really* happen, otherwise there's a falsity that defeats the whole purpose of it being spontaneous. So, a lot ends up being more fascinating for what is in the subtext this time, even if I still loved looking at Welles's direction, which is always an incredible feat of ingenuity, not to mention here when it's mostly talking heads. He uses color very well here, too, as it's his first time using shades of brown and gray for the Macao town parts, little flourishes of color that become darkened when around Clay, and the characters of Virginie (Moreau) and the Sailor (Norman Eshley) who compared to Clay are vibrant in appearance.

Much of the dialog is exquisite and unlike in some of Welles's other works not exactly dense and rapid-fire in taking it all in. There's even an elegiac tone going on here, as Clay is far from a Kane or Sheriff in Touch of Evil- he's dying, really, or at least mad, and there's a loneliness to his 'what-I-say-will-be-done' manner of speaking to his servant. Welles taps into that completely, even if it takes a little getting used to over the hour-long running time.

The other actors are hit or miss, however, with Moreau being the clear top choice in this field. With still some of those same melancholy beats she had when she appeared in French New Wave pictures, she taps into Virgine as someone who's more complex (albeit in small part my plot convenience, oddly enough) than someone like Clay would've thought in his factual-type realm. The facts for her make things awful to bear, even under payment, and Moreau also gets to reveal a deep level of sexuality that gives Welles another challenge never done before for him- how to handle a sex scene (this includes a great exchange of dialog between Virgine and Paul about an earthquake).

The men, however, are a little more shaky. Coggio isn't bad as Levinsky, but by nature of his character he has to be a stiff kind of guy, and sometimes it works well (his reaction to Clay's demand to re-enact this 'story' is very good), and sometimes not (his delivery of the lines, which aren't well-written, at the very end is unbelievable). I also found Eshly to be like an extra Welles might've picked up from Fellini's production of Satyricon with the pretty-boy men, this time with an awkward English accent. Only when looking at him under the surface did things seem a little intriguing, but on the surface ineffectual.

But for the patient Welles fan- yes, patient even at 62 minutes- The Immortal Story puts another good notch on the filmmaker/actor's club of of work. It deals with a subject that I could think and rouse about for hours, about what it is to live a life where things aren't predictable, or when things are mandated and put in rigid structure what it means to want to find why a story isn't made true or not. Why does Clay want the story to be real, and for only one person to say that it's for real or not? The final revelation from the sailor, of course, brilliantly contradicts everything that came before. Facts (or rather, the usual exposition), of course, aren't usually the best parts of any story, as any filmmaker can tell you.
16 out of 16 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Immortal poetry
jhmb200312 December 2002
The more I watch this movie, the more I love it. It's a gift of a genius who proves how easily Literature and Cinema can be mixed in a powerful way. Although is short and barely commercial, is a gem, a masterpiece of colour, rythm, music and words. The lasts shots, are simply magic.
31 out of 36 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
A lonely old man wants to bring a story he has heard to life.
notpyrkfonos8 August 2014
I just saw The Immortal story for the first time today thanks to TCM. I was impressed by the otherworldly quality of the film. Reading through the IMDb reviews I was surprised that no one speculated as to why Wells chose this story. To me the answer seems obvious. The film is about a lonely old man who wants to bring a story he has heard to life. He knows that he cannot accomplish the task alone so he turns to a minion in his employ to arrange the set piece and hire the players. Ironically even when he succeeds, it becomes clear that no one will ever hear the recounting of the story.

This is how Wells probably viewed his own life. ​Throughout his film career he struggled unhappily with his dependence on the help of producers and his need to control actors in order to bring his artistic visions to life. Sadly, even on the few occasions when he successfully got films completed, to him it seemed as if he never really had an audience.
8 out of 8 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Fiction into Fact
bhbutler19 March 2006
If you looking for action here or, if aware of the plot outline, expect a bit of soft porn, you will be disappointed. "The Immortal Story" is more of a visual and acoustic painting than a narrative. Especially since, according to another commentator, this was actor-director Welles' first venture into colour, he has used the unaccustomed medium masterfully both in his interiors and exteriors, and with the addition of the strident and insistent cicadas and refreshing dawn chorus has rendered the subtropical oriental night and its golden dawn beautifully realistic.

The Orson Welles' character, Charles Clay, a powerful expatriate merchant established in Macao, approaching seventy and dying from gout, is like a motionless fat spider in the centre of his web who controls everything and everybody within his range. As a control -freak he even wishes to make factual a much told sailors' yarn about a couple manipulated through bribes and some coercion to go to bed together. He is obsessed with this story but cannot stand fiction, (he rails at his personal assistant, the Jew Lewinsky, against the biblical prophecies he reads to his master). Facts he already controls, fiction must also come under his sway.

The enforced but, from the point of view of both the bully Clay and his victims, successful liaison between Jeanne Moreau and the young Danish sailor (satisfactorily played by an obscure British actor), the latter losing his virginity in this encounter, is tasteful, beautiful and not in the least prurient. That is except for the D.O.M. (écouteur?)listening at the keyhole, whose nocturnal presence we, however, spontaneously forget about. The couple appear to fall in love under these strange circumstances, though future relations seem to be highly doubtful. Just a couple of points bother me here: when the sailor tells Moreau (whose character's name is significantly but inappropriately Virginie) that he is 17 and is informed by her that she also is 17, it is quite evident that both, and especially Mlle. Moreau, are much older Maybe we are to assume that she lied to the ingenuous young man in order not to spoil the idyllic illusion of love-at-first-sight. The other point worrying me is why the attentive Chinese servants, besides feeding him, neglect to give the young man a good bath as well, especially as he had refrained from entering Clay's open carriage explaining that he was covered in tar and would soil the upholstery. And so he enters the nuptial chamber in his original torn and filthy clothes. Who knows, perhaps a whiff of tar has aphrodisiac properties...

Lewinsky the down-trodden but still spunky assistant/companion to Clay is well played by Roger Coggio. A Jew - Moreau calls him "the wandering Jew" - he has lost his parents in an Eastern European pogrom, and is inured to the blows of fate, and politely imperturbable when upbraided by his imperious master or slapped in the face by an outraged Moreau.

Fernando Rey, for decades Spain's foremost actor, equally able to perform in French and English as well as his native tongue, is included in the cast in a cameo part merely to spread the gossip about Clay's/Welles' ruthless machinations. I suppose the French TV company who commissioned this film was able to afford his services too because the cast was so small: apart from those mentioned above, there are only a few Caucasian listeners in Rey's audience, and half-a-dozen silent Chinese menials who would have cost little to hire.

The location on which the film was shot I was unable to ascertain, but it could have been anywhere in the world where there are large elegant 19th Century European houses, the colonial Portuguese element being supplied by one company sign with the word for export in Portuguese and the Chinese by the garish signs and notices with which the street is cluttered. Perhaps it is the old quarter of Marseilles.

I saw this film for the first time yesterday on the local Spanish channel which runs a series of classics in the original language, so that I saw it in French. This meant that Welles' unmistakable resonant and commanding basso profundo, so appropriate to this rôle was dubbed by a relatively mild-mannered francophone with a much higher register. With his over-brimming culture and long European residence, it seems very likely that Welles could have managed the French dialogue himself, just as Jeanne Moreau can perform equally well in English. Maybe he didn't because he was a perfectionist, even though the character portrayed is not a native French speaker

There are just two further points I should like to make that nobody else has touched on thus far:

First, the story for the script is from the pen of Danish raconteuse Karen Blixen, magnificently portrayed by Meryl Streep in "Out of Africa", who, Sheherezade-like, beguiled her lover and his friend with her fluent and fascinating tales.

Secondly, at the end of the film, the departing Dane about to take ship presents the old man with a mother-of-pearl-like conch he had acquired during his year of solitude on a desert island, and said by him to be virtually unique. As the young man moves away with a backward glance through a wood whose floor is auspiciously tinged with brightness by the rising sun, the shining conch falls to the floor of the verandah from the dead fingers of the merchant. No equivalent of "Rosebud" is uttered, but the incident is obviously a reprise of the ending of "Citizen Kane", Welles' early black-and-white triumph.
16 out of 18 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Welles' last and shortest masterpiece
orlygure10 March 2010
This was Orson Welles' only film in color apart from the documentary F for Fake which he made in 1973. After this film he sadly did not get the change to write and direct more movies. As mentioned before he made one documentary in the seventies, shot sections of the movie Other Side of the Wind (never finished it), made a bunch of commercials and starred in horrible movies (apart from The Kremlin Letter, Waterloo, Catch 22, A safe Place, Ten Days Wonder and Get to Know Your Rabbitt). So the only great thing we have from Orson Welles as a pioneer movie director during the last 20 years of his live (he died in 1985) is Chimes of Midnight (1966) and this film which he made in 1968 for french television. This film is short and excellent. The way Orson uses color celluloid is spellbinding, i've never seen anything like it, he uses red and green colors like a painter and projects a certain eerie feeling seldom seen in cinema. The story is a typical one by Welles. A rich and powerful older man is lonesome in his mansion and only wants to be loved. For those of you who love cinema, this film is a must see by one of the greatest directors of all time. Based on a story by danish writer Karen Blixen.
10 out of 11 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
"You move at my bidding"
chaos-rampant27 December 2010
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.
6 out of 7 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
irtisen30 August 2009
Warning: Spoilers
Some films are very long. For instance Antonioni's "La Notte", again with Jeanne Moreau - sorry for being in love with her. Hardly anything happens in that movie. Though you can't keep your eyes out of the screen. Fascinating (to me, at least).

The producers nowadays are afraid of "zapping". Films are stroboscopic. Add zoom and tracking. Mix the three together. You have TV's "CSI: Miami". Caruso is great fun, notably because of his caricatured acting (though he plays exactly what he is supposed to play, and he does it very well - his lines are so stupid... poor actor), but such obvious manipulation in filming is off-putting. And I get bored, so bored...

"The Immortal Story" is quite a short film. But the most beautiful I have ever seen in my whole life. I could watch it again and again 'till death do us part'. People call this "movie" literary, because of (the great great) K. Blixen - I. Dinesen. It is. It is nonetheless a move of the soul, a story of tale, legend, fate, and (un)achievement. It tells us you cannot be a link of the immortal story - the chain - unless you give your life to it, and die. So always did Welles, the greatest director of all times (to me). It is all about creation: genesis, generation, transmission and... your life.
6 out of 7 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Intriguing but slow
cherold21 February 2012
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.
4 out of 5 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Alas, Welles Can Be Boring
alonzoiii-18 July 2005
This film is hardly a disaster, and certainly the themes are Wellesian. It's just not terribly interesting or believable. Old Orson Welles is a rich old merchant in Macao who believes that all the stories he hears should be factual. Accordingly, he is dismayed when an old sailor's tale he was told -- in which a sailor is hired by an aging merchant to impregnate his much younger wife -- is revealed to be false. So old Mr. Welles sets out to act out the story by finding a young woman to play the wife and hire a sailor, so that, when future sailors tell the story, they will be narrating a true tale.

In addition to this plot, there are a number of underdeveloped plot points. The sailor Orson finds was just rescued from a year lost on a desert island. The lady Orson finds used to live in Orson's house, back in the days when she had a rich father. None of them really add anything to our understanding of the characters. In the end, we have a beautifully shot but glacially paced film where characters make long pointless speeches, Jeanne Moreau gets pleasantly naked, and the film ends with a very literary irony that probably worked fine in the source novel, but does not impress in this film. In other words, this is a pretty typical European art film of the 60s, right down to the plot that could, without much alteration, be remade as a porn film. If you like these kind of movies, this film will be a nice surprise. If you are like me, and tend to find these sorts of things pretentious and dull, go watch Touch of Evil instead.
20 out of 38 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
No masterpiece but still essential Welles
MOscarbradley22 August 2017
Certainly not the late masterpiece some people have claimed it to be but Orson Welles' "The Immortal Story" is still extraordinary in ways so many films aren't. It clocks in at under an hour so it really is the perfect miniature. It is a film about the art of story-telling with only four main speaking parts. Welles could just as easily have done this on the radio and yet visually this is extremely beautiful, (it was his first film in colour), and still typically 'Wellesian'.

He adapted it from a novel by Isak Dinesen and he, himself, plays the role of the old merchant in the 'story' of the old merchant who hires a young sailor to sleep with his young wife, (Jeanne Moreau is the woman hired by the merchant to play the wife in the story). The sailor is played by the English actor Norman Eshley and he's painfully wooden but he doesn't upset the flow of the piece; in fact, his banal, robotic diction actually fits it. No masterpiece then, but this short piece, which almost feels thrown together, stands head and shoulders over the best work of many lesser directors.
2 out of 2 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
one of Welles' greatest and, unfortunately, most obscure films
framptonhollis26 June 2017
Admittedly, many of the films that I give a rating of a ten out of ten to on this website are not necessarily deserving of such an honor, and I do abuse such a privilege because I can always find something wrong with even my favorite films (with a couple of exceptions). However, "The Immortal Story" is among the few films that I have seen that seems to have absolutely nothing wrong with it. Orson Welles crafted this masterpiece, shot for shot, in a way that flows with an almost poetic rhythm. Swimming through the dark shores of "The Immortal Story" is a disturbing, twisted, engaging, sad, entertaining, and unique experience.

Based on a work by Karen Blixen (the woman behind the novel "Out of Africa" as well as the novella that inspired one of my favorite movies, "Babette's Feast") this is a strange story of awkward and borderline surreal events when an elderly and powerful trader played by Welles himself declares his preference to facts over fiction, and requests to recreate a tale he hears so it could have truly occurred. The results are quite unconventional and inexplicably melancholic. By the end, I nearly shook with a strange feeling of sadness; this movie isn't explicitly depressing, but the subtlety only makes it more gloomy and affecting to the (at least REMOTELY) sensitive viewer. Welles' own narration adds another cryptic layer to the tale, as each and every performance across the board is practically perfect in tone and slight awkwardness. It is a small scale project that has a limited cast and clocks in at only about fifty eight minutes and yet it surpasses a majority of today's huge, two and a half hour long blockbusters. This is an elegant portrait of eccentricity and philosophy, a film about a heavy (in both weight and mind) old man with a slightly deranged way of thinking, and this man is portrayed with all the mumbling might one could expect from one of cinema's main masters, the great Orson Welles!

The music accompanies the film perfectly as the tone of Erik Satie's great piano pieces is calm, but slightly sad, which is exactly what I would describe the film surrounding it as. This is not a ridiculous, over the top melodrama, but rather a slow, Bergmanesque tale of bizarre tragedy. Mind blowingly perfect in every way, "The Immortal Story" is a stream that runs with pure delight, but not in the conventional sense for the delight here is made up of moments that will likely depress and destroy, but also provoke.
2 out of 2 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Bathe in the Light
kurosawakira20 October 2014
Obscure even in Welles' obscure filmography and hardly available anywhere, "The Immortal Story" (1968) is his shortest feature film and would be followed only by "F for Fake" (1974) and "Filming 'Othello'" (1978).

Even Borgesian in its treatment of life and fiction, mirrors become important metaphors right away: the looking glasses brought from France, the mirrors as witnesses to the long- vanished happiness of the Ducrot family, Clay having a mirror in his dining room, him sitting face to face with his portrait; and then, the film becomes a kind of a mirror, which then takes a life of its own when he devices the brilliant fiction in his own life. Quite soon the film and its life become a game of cards, a grand trick of the cosmos. The scene where they bathe in the light is pure magic.

Satie's piano pieces are powerful. Also, I wonder how and whether at all this would have anticipated something in "The Other Side of the Wind"?
2 out of 2 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Temporarily Like Achilles
urnotdb21 May 2005
Warning: Spoilers
Recent airing of this (TCM) provided my last chance to see a Welles film for the first time. Do the "immortals" appeal primarily to the young? The definitive experiment, of course, is impossible. I'll never see "Citizen Kane" for the first time again. "The Immortal Story" is a short, dream-like parable suggesting (to me) that, in a transient "material world" stories immortalize our spiritual "genes," and that we need both. It employs the now-popular strategy of a story-within-the-story becoming the story. The verdict on Welles' "final bow"? Why we choose someone like him to be our god. (I wonder if a language could be constructed comprised only of Bob Dylan lyrics?). Maybe the meaning of "The Immortal Story" was left intentionally intangible. Maybe that's the point.
4 out of 7 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Rarely seen Welles film is not a commercial piece of film-making...
Doylenf28 March 2007
Having said that, it's strictly an art piece about a bankrupt merchant (ORSON WELLES) who for some unknown reason wants to turn a myth into reality by hiring two people to play out the theme of a story the townspeople have turned into a myth.

The setting is Macao, China and the slow moving tale is narrated by Welles as Mr. Clay, a bitter old man with a faithful servant/assistant. Welles, by this time in his career, had deteriorated physically to the point where some of his dialog is hard to understand since he barely moves his mouth when he speaks.

He pays his assistant to locate a woman and a sailor who can reenact the tale inside his own palatial house. JEANNE MOREAU is the young woman who agrees to play her part in "the comedy" after being assured that she will be paid handsomely for her contribution to making the old man's story come to life. Moreau talks and talks to the assistant about her background in this very literary tale where there is so little movement to propel the story forward.

Mr. Clay himself chooses the sailor, a tattered looking blond whom he invites to his home with the promise of five guineas. And he talks and talks and talks. "It's hard on you being so old and dry," the sailor tells Welles. And indeed, Welles, as Mr. Clay, does look old and dry beyond his seventy years. But Mr. Clay is intent on making a tale that has been invented really happen.

Handsomely photographed in subdued color, it's a very enigmatic tale that really doesn't make much sense when it's all over. Chalk it up to another pretentious bore from Welles, who based his screenplay on a novel by Isak Dinesen (author of "Out of Africa").

Summing up: A misfire and enigma that Welles originally planned as part of an anthology of stories.
7 out of 15 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Michael_Elliott27 February 2008
Immortal Story, The (1968)

** 1/2 (out of 4)

Orson Welles directed this film about an old man (Welles) who pays a young woman to be his wife and then pays a young man to sleep with her. This is a rather strange film to rate because on a technical level the film is downright brilliant. Everything from the visual style to the acting to the directing are all top-notch but I could never get caught up in the story. The version I watched ran 63-minutes and it moves very well but I just wish I could have gotten caught up in the story better because Welles works wonders with the low budget and delivers something truly beautiful on the eyes.
4 out of 8 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Other literary sources?
jhall-430 March 2007
Several have pointed out that The Immortal Story is based on a novel by Isak Dinesen, as the credits state. As I watched it, and learned that Paul and Virginie are the names of the lovers, I recalled that at least two French works have been written with the title: Paul et Virginie. A play by Jean Cocteau, and a novel by Bernardin de Saint-Pierre, who lived 1737-1814. I wonder if Welles (or Dinesen?) might have been influenced by those works, or at least the Saint-Pierre, but I can't tell any real similarity in the plots, perhaps in the poignant tone of the love story. The Saint-Pierre novel is a pastoral about two children who were brought up on an exotic island (Mauritius?) as brother and sister (although they are not). Virginie is sent away to France to become educated and society-worthy, and to separate the children. But she insists on returning to Paul, her true love, and dies in a shipwreck before she gets back to the island. Young love thwarted.
4 out of 8 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Art on film-- truly unequal to any made today
Hollywoodshack11 March 2011
Welles' film is a great comment on greed and the love of riches, and how futile it is when you can't take it with you after life ends. Wealthy Mr. Clay demands his assistant make the story he heard on ships from sailors come true. He pays the daughter (Jean Moreau) of a business partner he ruined and a poor young sailer (Norman Eishley) to sleep together one night so Clay can be the godfather of the child they conceive since Clay couldn't father children with his own wife. There is an ironic surprise for this plan when it completes, Welles using a brilliant color scheme and expert camera angles through every shot and scene. Clay's character is especially good with Welles filling the stuffy, wicked sturdiness of his portrayal almost like greed and evil personified.
2 out of 3 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Isak Dinesen (Karen Blixen) story brought to life by Welles
blanche-226 August 2017
In a documentary about Orson Welles, Jeanne Moreau talks about Welles' obsession with fake noses when he acted. In "The Immortal Story," he sports a fake nose and very obvious age makeup. It doesn't matter. With his voice and presence, he was always a commanding force.

Of interest, the movie was filmed in and around Welles' home near Madrid, and waiters at Chinese restaurants were used for extras.

The film is based on a story by Karen Blixen and takes place in 19th Century Macao. After destroying his business partner, Mr. Clay (Welles) lives in the man's home, now old and dying, with only his bookkeeper Levinsky (Roger Coggio) to keep him company.

One night, they are talking about a story Clay heard, and Lewinsky informs him that it is an old story, not true, that has been repeated by sailors for years. The story concerns an old man who pays a sailor to impregnate his wife.

Clay wants to turn this story into fact. Levinsky approaches the ex- partner's daughter, Virginie (Moreau). She takes the job for triple the fee he is offering - for her, this is a way to get revenge for her father's ruin and death. Clay himself chooses the sailor, Paul (Norman Eshley) and offers him a 5-guinea gold piece.

Interesting, strange story, perhaps too literary to be filmed, with a Citizen Kane ending. Despite being a little stilted, this is a very Welles film - an old man with great wealth, a control freak; and in a God-like manner, manipulates people to his own ends. Making a story real is a bid for immortality.

Jeanne Moreau is, as usual, mesmerizing as Virgine - sexual, beautiful, and dark.

The film seems to be a mirror of Welles' own life, the director as God but who is dependent on others to make things happen. And in the end, alone.
1 out of 1 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Everryone has their price...
MartinHafer10 August 2017
Aside from the lovely and moody music by Erik Satie, there isn't a lot about this strange film that would appeal to most viewers. I also have no idea why French television paid Orson Welles to bring this Karen Blixen story to the small screen...but apparently they thought it was a brilliant idea.

Orson Welles directed and stars in this odd morality tale. A rich man (Welles) tells his lackey a story about a rich man paying a sailor to impregnate the rich man's wife. The lackey assures him that this is a myth and it never happened...and the story has been passed around by sailors for years. Oddly, the rich man decides to make the story true by paying a woman to sleep with a sailor of his choosing.

The story is, I assume, about the corruption of money and power. Frankly, I didn't care as I found the whole thing pretentious and long-winded. I know it's seen as great art as ANYTHING by Welles is great art...even though he rarely actually finished any of his film projects. Technically, it's reasonably well made but all I know is that it left me cold and confused as to why anyone would care to make this story in the first place.
1 out of 1 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Immortal story
a-h-guicherit2 December 2018
This is really a gem. This film is the only film in colour by Orson Welles. And he used it very interesting. It is story about legend and reality. Of power and feelings. Jeanne Moreau is ever young an brilliant and her beau is really beautiful an sexy. And Orson plays his role with much authority and presence. A film to recommend.
0 out of 0 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
A cinematic novella; Welles marking time...
moonspinner5515 May 2007
Director-star Orson Welles also adapted Isak Dinesen's rather pointless book about an aged millionaire recluse living in China who tells his employee of an incredible story he heard while in the service regarding a rich, dying man, his terrible wife and a sailor-stud. The employee explains that this tale is just a legend, but the millionaire aims to make it fact. The sexual implications in the narrative aren't ignored by Welles, though they are tip-toed around (probably due to the restrictions of 1968), and when Welles as the "old gentleman" finds himself the perfect boy to complete his plan, it's hard not to smirk when he calls the bottle-blonde "a fine looking sailor" and then offers him money. Who needs Jeanne Moreau when these two are hitting it off so well? ** from ****
5 out of 16 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
very very nice...
dmanko1 April 2003
This is a very tight ,though highily clestophobic movie, with a simple, almost bed-time-story simplistic script. Nonetheless it is a powerfull message, superbly given...Enjoy!
3 out of 8 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
An unusual effort from Welles
emwolf18 September 2011
Welles continues to amaze me. I've made an effort to track down some of his less available movies, such as F For Fake, and this one. This is closer in style to the Magnificent Ambersons than anything else I've seen. Welles seems to have a love for the people of this world he creates and frames them in vibrant colors with golden lighting. The pace, unlike the majority of his works, is slow and deliberate without the trademarked quick editing. The story, too, is not rushed and the ironic twists are revealed with a sense of sadness, no one's "comeuppance" seemed justified but rather a tragic outcome of each character's personal flaws. I really recommend this for fans of the master. I think many will find this odd and I imagine that many younger viewers (the ones who find black & white dull or Hitchcock overrated) will find this unwatchable.
1 out of 2 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
offbeat, rarely shown O Welles shortie
ksf-222 May 2015
It's an Orson Welles, so we know it will be weird and artistic, and odd. It opens with an old, lonely, rich man (Orsen Welles ) speaking with his assistant Levinsky in Macau. Mr. Clay (Welles) had heard the story of an old man who could not impregnate a young girl, so he paid a sailor to do the job. Clay wants to make this fantasy come true, so he instructs Levinsky ( Roger Coggio) to set up the fantasy for him. The assistant finds Virginie Ducrot (Jeanne Moreau) and convinces her to go along with the scheme. Orson Welles narrates the story, but as usual, the film would only be improved by eliminating the narration and just letting the story happen. Welles always seem to overdo the directing and story-telling; most of his films would have been btter if he had just relaxed and let the story happen. Original story by Karen Blixen aka Isak Dinesen ... (Out of Africa..) Norman Eshley is the sailor they pick up to "do the job" and complete the fantasy. Welles looks like death warmed over, while Eshley is young, clothes tattered but looking reasonably virile. It's pretty short, at only 62 minutes, but its interesting, historically for the Dinesen and Welles connections. I guess this would fall right in the middle of Welles' career, but with his make-up, he looks so old. This was only the second project for Eshley, but he does a fine job here. It gets a little silly... at one point, the lovers tell each other they are seventeen, but CLEARLY they are both older than that. Moreau was FORTY, and looked it. It's okay, but no big thang. Has kind of an O'Henry, ironic ending. Entertaining enough.
1 out of 3 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
An error has occured. Please try again.

See also

Awards | FAQ | User Ratings | External Reviews | Metacritic Reviews

Recently Viewed