Orson Welles

The Immortal Story

The Immortal Story

Orson Welles’s first color film and final completed fictional feature, The Immortal Story is a moving and wistful adaptation of a tale by Isak Dinesen. Welles stars as a wealthy merchant in nineteenth-century Macao, who becomes obsessed with bringing to life an oft-related anecdote about a rich man who gives a poor sailor a small sum of money to impregnate his wife. Also starring an ethereal Jeanne Moreau, this jewel-like film, dreamily shot by Willy Kurant and suffused with the music of Erik Satie, is a brooding, evocative distillation of Welles’s artistic interests—a story about the nature of storytelling and the fine line between illusion and reality.

Film Info

  • Orson Welles
  • France
  • 1968
  • 58 minutes
  • Color
  • 1.66:1
  • English, French
  • Spine #831

Special Features

  • New, restored 4K digital transfer of the English-language version of the film, with uncompressed monaural soundtrack on the Blu-ray
  • Alternate French-language version of the film
  • Audio commentary from 2005 featuring film scholar Adrian Martin
  • Portrait: Orson Welles, a 1968 documentary directed by François Reichenbach and Frédéric Rossif
  • New interview with actor Norman Eshley
  • Interview from 2004 with cinematographer Willy Kurant
  • New interview with Welles scholar François Thomas
  • PLUS: An essay by film critic Jonathan Rosenbaum
    New cover by Sterling Hundley

Purchase Options

Special Features

  • New, restored 4K digital transfer of the English-language version of the film, with uncompressed monaural soundtrack on the Blu-ray
  • Alternate French-language version of the film
  • Audio commentary from 2005 featuring film scholar Adrian Martin
  • Portrait: Orson Welles, a 1968 documentary directed by François Reichenbach and Frédéric Rossif
  • New interview with actor Norman Eshley
  • Interview from 2004 with cinematographer Willy Kurant
  • New interview with Welles scholar François Thomas
  • PLUS: An essay by film critic Jonathan Rosenbaum
    New cover by Sterling Hundley
The Immortal Story
Cast
Jeanne Moreau
Virginie
Orson Welles
Mr. Clay
Roger Coggio
Elishama
Norman Eshley
Paul
Credits
Director
Orson Welles
Written by
Orson Welles
Based on a novel by
Karen Blixen (Isak Dinesen)
Produced by
Micheline Rozan
Music by
Erik Satie
Director of photography
Willy Kurant
Editors
Yolande Maurette
Editors
Marcelle Pluet
Editors
Françoise Garnault
Editors
Claude Farny
Production manager
Marc Maurette

From The Current

The Immortal Story: Divas and Dandies
The Immortal Story: Divas and Dandies

Set in nineteenth-century Macao, Orson Welles’s adaptation of a classic tale by Isak Dinesen is a hypnotic meditation on the pitfalls of storytelling.

By Jonathan Rosenbaum

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The Fog of Welles: A Trip to Chinchón
The Fog of Welles: A Trip to Chinchón

During a research mission to Spain, Criterion web producer/researcher Valeria Rotella takes a day trip to the medieval desert town of Chinchón, where Orson Welles is rumored to have shot Chimes at Midnight and The Immortal Story.

By Valeria Rotella

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Talking Welles With the Great Jeanne Moreau

Flashbacks

Talking Welles With the Great Jeanne Moreau

During a 2006 meeting with the author, French New Wave icon Jeanne Moreau reminisced about working with Orson Welles, Louis Malle, and François Truffaut, and her turn to acting as a means of eluding the “destiny of a regular girl.”

By Peter Cowie

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Explore

Jeanne Moreau

Actor

Jeanne Moreau
Jeanne Moreau

With her mix of sultry glamour and no-nonsense wit, Jeanne Moreau has been the embodiment of intelligent French moviestardom for six decades. The Paris-born daughter of a Folies Bergère dancer and a restaurateur, Moreau started out as a stage actress at the Comédie-Française before earning supporting roles in B pictures and crime dramas in the fifties—the most often recalled now being Jacques Becker’s captivating 1954 heist thriller Touchez pas au grisbi, with Jean Gabin. Soon enough, thanks to the discerning eye of Louis Malle, Moreau was thrust into the spotlight—even if, in her breakthrough in Malle’s Elevator to the Gallows, it was the lack of a spotlight that made her stand out: Moreau’s star-making nighttime stroll through Paris was lit only by the windows along the Champs-Élysées. This unorthodox choice was a harbinger of the more casual shooting style that would define the coming French New Wave, of which Moreau would be a figurehead. Following her lead performance in Malle’s groundbreakingly explicit romance The Lovers, she provided cameos in François Truffaut’s The 400 Blows and Jean-Luc Godard’s A Woman Is a Woman, solidifying her status as an icon. Of course, it was Truffaut’s masterpiece Jules and Jim that cemented her place in the annals of film: her performance as the alternately coquettish and commanding Catherine made her a brainy sex symbol for the ages. In her varied and long career, Moreau has worked with such legendary auteurs as Luis Buñuel, Michelangelo Antonioni, Orson Welles (who once called her “the greatest actress in the world”), and Rainer Werner Fassbinder, and she continues to work today, in films by some of contemporary cinema’s most revered names, such as Amos Gitai, Tsai Ming-liang, and François Ozon.