Friday, September 5, 2014

The Immortal Story (Une histoire immortelle) by Orson Welles

1968, from the story by Karen Blixen

I had a few lines from this great film stuck in my head for a while, a few years ago, and just recently I’ve had reason to contemplate them again. “It is very hard on people who want things so badly that they can’t do without them. If they can’t get these things, it is very hard. And when they do get them, surely it is very hard.”  The film itself may seem very slight.  Certainly, it was generally dismissed out of hand by all the respectable critics when it was released in this country.  I’ve read the reviews.  Even Jim Hoberman said it was the only one of Welles’s films that he doesn’t much like.  I think it is one of his very best.

The other night I listened to an interview with the director of photography, Willy Kurant, who shot it.  The Immortal Story was the first color film by Orson Welles to be completed and released.  (As Kurant points out, Orson shot the carnival sequences in It’s All True in color, back in the early forties.)  After listening to what Willy had to say, I watched the film again (though in a fairly poor quality video transfer.)  The images are gorgeous, but more than anything it’s the tone of Roger Coggio’s voice that haunts me.    “I have heard it before…long ago. But where?”

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