Written by: Michael Den Boer on August 7th, 2015
Theatrical Release Dates: France, 1968
Director: Orson Welles
Writers: Orson Welles, Louise de Vilmorin
Cast: Jeanne Moreau, Orson Welles, Roger Coggio, Norman Eshley, Fernando Rey
DVD released: June 29th, 2015
Approximate running time: 60 minutes
Aspect Ratio: 1.66:1 Anamorphic Widescreen
Rating: 15 (UK)
Sound: Dolby Digital Mono English
DVD Release: Mr. Bongo
Region Coding: Region 0 PAL
Retail Price: £12.99 (UK)
Synopsis: A wealthy man named Mr. Clay is on the verge of death. He is told an old sailors tale by his accountant. In said tale where a wealthy man in need of an heir pays a sailor five guineas to father a child with his wife. Seeing several similarities between his own life and the story, Mr. Clay decides to make the story by having his accountant hire actors to portray the sailor and the wife characters.
The Immortal Story was co-written and directed by Orson Welles, a filmmaker who quickly rose to prominence with his first feature film, Citizen Kane and just as quickly was sent into exile as a director after his second film The Magnificent Ambersons. Outside of a handful of films, he would spend the rest of his career as a director making the majority of his films outside of Hollywood.
Key collaborators on The Immortal Story include, screenwriter / novelist Louise de Vilmorin (The Earrings of Madame De…, The Lovers) and cinematographer Willy Kurant (Trans-Europ-Express, Masculin Féminin). The Immortal Story was adapted from author Karen Blixen’s (Out of Africa) short story of the same name.
The story at hand takes place during the 19th century in the Portuguese colony of Macao. Of course the production design is impeccable as Welles was always someone who paid great attention to detail. Also the meticulously constructed narrative keeps things moving along at a brisk pace. And when it comes to the characters they are well defined persona’s which further bolster the story at hand.
Without a doubt the most durable asset this film has is the pitch perfect performances from its cast. With this film’s most memorable performance coming from Norman Eshley (See No Evil, The Confessional) in the role of the sailor. After all it is his character that is given the least to work with. Another performance of note is Jeanne Moreau (The Trial, The Bride Wore Black) in the role of Virginie Ducrot. It is her character that has been hired to portray the wife character in the story that the wealthy man is trying to recreate and bring to life.
When he is not deliver another stoic performance. Welles direction creates an utterly tangible world that is filled with a tremendous amount of atmosphere. And though there are several moments throughout this film which remind just how extraordinary of a filmmaker that Welles was. The moment that stands out most visually in this film is the scene where the wife character and the sailor make love in a bed with curtains partially obscuring them from the outside world. This scene is easily amongst the best moments Welles ever shot as he frames with the utmost precision and care every inch of Moreau’s character’s naked flesh.
For a film that originally began its life as a project for television. The Immortal Story is yet another classic example from Welles where the sum of the parts far exceed the limited resources that he had to work with.
Mr. Bongo Presents The Immortal Story in an anamorphic widescreen that preserves this film’s intended aspect ratio. A quick not about this film’s aspect ratio. Though this film was originally shot to for television. This film would go onto to be released theatrically and this release from Mr. Bongo represents the film’s theatrical aspect ratio. The source used is in great shape as colors look nicely saturated and flesh tones look accurate, details generally look crisp and there are no issues with compression. There are a few very minor instances of print debris and though black levels fare well, they do leave room for improvement. Also there is edge enhancement that varies in degree throughout. It is more noticeable during a few of the wider angle shots. Fortunately it never becomes intrusive as these moments a far and few.
This release comes with one audio option, a Dolby Digital mono mix in English. There are no issues with background noise or distortion and dialog always comes through clearly. Range wise thing sound good considering the limitations of the mono source and everything sounds balanced.
This release comes with no extra content. There are two options on the main menu, play feature or chapter selection. Overall The Immortal Story gets a strong audio / video presentation from Mr. Bongo.