The Immortal Story (1969) is an oddity in the Welles oeuvre, an hour-long adaptation of an Isak Dinesen short story originally made for French TV but subsequently released as a feature. Plans to film two more Dinesen stories foundered when the promised funds disappeared. This was the first of Welles’ films in colour—he always preferred black-and-white—and the last dramatic film to be successfully completed and released during his lifetime. After this there was the “film essay” F for Fake (1973), and many years of unfinished projects.
Welles wrote and directed The Immortal Story, and also plays the manipulative Mr Clay, an aged businessman who wants to see a story he was once told enacted in real life. Jeanne Moreau is Virginie, a woman paid a large sum of money to spend a night with a penniless sailor (Norman Eshley in a blond wig); Roger Coggio is Clay’s assistant, Levinsky. Jeanne Moreau had earlier played Miss Burstner in Welles’ The Trial, Doll Tearsheet in Chimes at Midnight, and would have been in The Deep if Welles had completed it. She’s the liveliest presence in a film that’s rather slow and sombre by Welles’ standards. The Immortal Story is set in Macau but was shot in Spain; Satie’s Gymnopédies and Gnossiennes contribute to the somnolent atmosphere. Watch out for an uncredited (and dubbed) Fernando Rey in the opening scenes.