REVIEW — The Immortal Story (1968)

FilmJuice have my review of Orson Welles’ wonderfully lugubrious The Immortal Story, a low-budget adaptation of a Karen Blixen story.

Set in Macao, the film tells of a Scrooge-like figure who attempts to turn fantasy into reality by paying a soldier to sleep with an attractive woman in the hope of producing a child to whom he could leave his immeasurable wealth. Shot in and around Welles’ real-world home near Madrid, the film’s world is composed entirely of decaying buildings, empty streets and elaborately decorated rooms that look more like tombs than luxury apartments. Little over an hour long, the film cuts out virtually all exposition resulting in a plot that is almost completely impenetrable. However, given the sense of spiritual desolation that hangs over the entire film, I suspect The Immortal Story is about the creation of a fantasy that only serves to make people miserable by presenting them with their heart’s desire as well as the distance that separates them from that desire:

What Welles refuses to do is to spell out the point of the story which is that every one of these characters is just one step away from happiness: Clay is terribly alone and yet his house is suddenly full of people, Virginie has spent her life wanting to return to her childhood home and now she’s there, Paul spent a year dreaming of girls and now he has one, and Levinsky’s desire to be completely alone is what all of the others seem to detest the most about their own lives.

There’s a wonderfully geometrical precision about the unhappiness that flows through this film… everyone seems to want what makes everyone else miserable but rather than getting what they want, they get money. Just not enough money to get what they really want.

 

L’Enfance Nue (1968) – Truth beneath Theory

Back in the early 00s, I was studying the philosophy of science.  Studying philosophy is very similar to being one of the generals, comfy in a French chateau miles away from the front and seeing the world purely in terms of previous wars fought by previous generations.  I was taught the history of philosophy in terms of rationalism vs. empiricism rather than within a proper historical context (I did not truly understand the point of Leibniz’s philosophy until I read Neal Stephenson’s Baroque Cycle).  Sometimes we would hear news of young South American Logicians doing wonderful things with multi-variant logical systems and the smarter kids had sensed a shift in academia’s prevailing winds and hitched their philosophical wagon to actual scientific research rather than debates held by angry young graduate students who were now port-soaked emeritus professors.  However, one battle I was all too eager to fight was the one between science and continental philosophy, part of the wider academic clash of empires known as the Science Wars.  In all the books, all the arguments and all the pages of incommensurable bickering that went on, I still remember someone pointing out that, for all the political anger of critical theorists, no member of the working class had ever actually benefited from a piece of critical theory.  This is something of a cheap shot as the suggestion is that, as academic debate is an irredeemably bourgeois activity, leftist critical theorists are all hypocrites of the highest order.  One might well quibble with this rather haughty and dismissive comment but it does seem to be close to the opinions held by Maurice Pialat.

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