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.

 

Cinematic Vocabulary – Opening Scene of Touch of Evil (1958)

Write enough reviews and it is easy to fall into the trap of thinking of films as discrete cultural units.  Artefacts cut asunder from the rest of the world and presented to the audience in a neat little package.  Thinking of films in these terms tends to lead one to focus upon macroscopic issues such as plot, performance and theme whilst ignoring the fine-grained details of the film such as the cinematography, the sound editing and the techniques used to convey those plots and themes.  In an attempt to wean myself away from thinking of films as discrete cultural artefacts, I have decided to write a series of pieces that focus on individual scenes from a critical perspective.  My own take on the Anatomy of a Scene series if you will.

The first scene to go under the microscope is the opening sequence of Orson Welles’ Touch of Evil (1958).

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