A small gem, Welles' next-to-last film (F FOR FAKE followed; THE DEEP and THE OTHER SIDE OF THE WIND were never completed) was produced for French television and eventually released theatrically. Set on Macao in the 19th century, the film stars Welles as an extremely wealthy, tyrannical
merchant who long ago drove his former partner to bankruptcy and suicide. Now old and impotent, Welles lives alone in a huge mansion, cared for by his bookkeeper, Coggio, who reads his boss the account books at night to lull him to sleep. Welles does not care for fiction, only facts, and when
Coggio tries to break the monotony one night by reading the prophesy of Isaiah aloud, the old man interrupts and tells the "true" story of an aging, wealthy merchant who paid a sailor to have sex with his young wife so that she might produce an heir. Coggio informs Welles that the story is pure
myth and that every sailor in the world has heard it. Angry because the tale is not based in fact, Welles decides to make the story "true." Welles plans to hire a woman to pose as his wife, then he intends to pay a sailor to have sex with her. Coggio is dispatched to find a woman, while Welles
searches for a sailor. As it turns out the woman Coggio finds, Moreau, happens to be the daughter of Welles' dead partner, but she agrees to participate for a large fee. The sailor, Eshley, is a shipwrecked Danish seaman who has been living in Macao for a year. Welles brings the young man to his
mansion and treats him to a fabulous meal. After dinner Eshley is ushered into a bedroom where Moreau lies naked on a bed awaiting his arrival. During their passionate lovemaking Welles stands outside the door and listens. The next morning, a delighted Welles tells the young man that the mythical
seafaring story is now true and that Eshley should tell the tale in every port where his roving life takes him. Eshley replies that he has no intention of telling anyone what has happened between him and Moreau, and that no one would believe him if he did. The sailor then hands Welles a beautiful
seashell and instructs him to give it to Moreau. Profoundly shocked that he has been unable to impose his will on the sailor and turn fiction into fact, Welles drops the shell and dies.
THE IMMORTAL STORY is a small, quietly beautiful fable which leaves the viewer with a strange sense of loss and sadness. The film is based on a novel by Isak Dinesen, whose work Welles had long wanted to bring to the screen. Years before, the great director had been conned by a Hungarian who
claimed to own the rights to several of Dinesen's works and who wanted films based on those books to be shot in Budapest. Welles and his company went to work on the preproduction in an expensive hotel in the Hugarian capital, but after a few weeks the great filmmaker realized that the Hungarian
had no money, and, having run up quite a bill himself, Welles was forced to slip out of town in the dead of night. Eventually the director's dream was realized when the state-owned French television company ORTF offered to produce the film.
Though THE IMMORTAL STORY is certainly no CITIZEN KANE, it is fascinating to compare this film's Mr. Clay with Charles Foster Kane. Welles gives us two towering figures, men with amazing potential whose desperate desire for success and power results in lives that end in loneliness and despair.
Still, we feel empathy for these frequently cruel men because their simple need for happiness goes tragically unfulfilled.
Cast & Details See all »
- Rating: NR
- Review: A small gem, Welles' next-to-last film (F FOR FAKE followed; THE DEEP and THE OTHER SIDE OF THE WIND were never completed) was produced for French television and eventually released theatrically. Set on Macao in the 19th century, the film stars Welles as a… (more)