Thursday, January 06, 2011

TV review – “The Immortal Story” (1968) **

Orson Welles’ first film in colour – it’s been classified as a feature but it goes for under 60 minutes and was made for French TV originally. Even at that short running time, it’s heavy going – I found this very dull and boring. That’s right, any Welles fanatics who happen to stumble upon this blog: sorry, but it put me to sleep. The story takes forever to get going, and once it starts, it’s pretty much over.
Try the set up for starters: Welles is a merchant in Macao (apparently he shot some location footage while making Ferry to Hong Kong) who hears a story about a man who gets his wife impregnated by a sailor so he sets about finding someone to make the story come true. It’s convoluted – we hear a story then see a replay of the story. Then when he goes ahead and makes it happen, there are no consequences. The sailor and the girl have sex, the sailor leaves… the end. The girl doesn’t get vengeance on Welles, or go off with him or anything. It just finishes. It’s like an incomplete first act – or a simple little fable dragged out too long. And there are far, far too many scenes of people sitting around talking. (Joseph Cotten apparently turned down the role of Welles' offsider partly because he thought the script was like a radio play - he was right. Still, Cotten should have played the part for old times' sake.)
Maybe it would have been better had the actors playing the girl and the sailor actually looked like they were seventeen, as they claim to be – or was this the point. I have to say though that the acting if fine: Jeanne Moreau is very sexy (indeed, the most interesting thing about the whole movie is the sex scene; this is done with real imagination and flair - Welles got a bit more kinky in his work in later years).

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