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The Immortal Story aka "Histoire immortelle" [Blu-ray]
Review by Gary Tooze
Theatrical: Albina Productions S.a.r.l.
Video: Criterion Collection Spine #831
Region: 'A' (as verified by the Oppo Blu-ray player)
English Runtime: 0:58:00.477 / French Runtime: 0:50:57.095
Disc Size: 48,247,452,647 bytes
English Feature Size: 17,243,369,472 bytes
French Feature Size: 15,154,919,424 bytes
Video Bitrate: 35.27 Mbps / 35.53 Mbps
Chapters: 15 (both)
Case: Transparent Blu-ray case
Release date: August 30th, 2016
Aspect ratio: 1.66:1
Resolution: 1080p / 23.976 fps
Video codec: MPEG-4 AVC Video
LPCM Audio English 1152 kbps 1.0 / 48 kHz / 1152 kbps / 24-bit
Commentary: Dolby Digital Audio English 192 kbps 1.0 / 48 kHz / 192 kbps
LPCM Audio French 1152 kbps 1.0 / 48 kHz / 1152 kbps / 24-bit
English (SDH), none
• Audio commentary from 2005 featuring film scholar Adrian Martin
• Portrait: Orson Welles, a 1968 documentary directed by François Reichenbach and Frédéric Rossif (42:53)
• New interview with actor Norman Eshley (14:17)
• Interview from 2004 with cinematographer Willy Kurant (15:00)
• New interview with Welles scholar François Thomas (25:14)
• PLUS: An essay by film critic Jonathan Rosenbaum
Description: 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.
The Immortal Story was directed by Orson Welles, who also stars as a fabulously wealthy, but bitter and dictatorial, European merchant. Soured on life, Mr. Clay (Welles) decides to play games with the lives of others. He decides to make the "immortal" legend of a sailor seducing a rich man's wife come true and even picks the sailor (Roger Coggio) himself. Through Mr. Clay's machinations, the sailor beds a beautiful younger woman (Jeanne Moreau) whom Clay pays to pose as his own wife. There's little more to the story than that, but Welles weaves his short tale with an economy and expertise which proves he hadn't lost his touch by 1969. Based on a story by Isaak Dinesen, The Immortal Story was originally made for French television; it was also the only Orson Welles-directed film to be released in color.Excerpt from MRQE located HERE
This rarely screened Isak Dinesen adaptation by Orson Welles—his first release in color (1968), originally intended for a never-completed anthology film—is far from one of his most achieved works. But thematically and poetically it exemplifies his late lyrical manner, and it provides clues as to what his most treasured late project—another Dinesen adaptation called The Dreamers, for which he shot a few tests—might have looked like. Set in 19th-century Macao (though filmed modestly in France and Spain), this parablelike tale stars Welles as a lonely and selfish merchant who gets his Jewish secretary (Roger Coggio) to hire a courtesan (Jeanne Moreau) and a sailor (Norman Eshley) to reenact a story. It's awkward yet exquisite.Excerpt from Jonathan Rosenbaum at the Chicago Reader located HERE
Image : NOTE: The below Blu-ray captures were taken directly from the Blu-ray disc.
The Immortal Story surprisingly strong on Blu-ray from Criterion. We didn't do a frame comparison between the English and, 7-minute shorter, French versions as they looked quite similar to me with both having strong max'ed out, 1080P, transfers. The disc is dual-layered in the 1.66:1 aspect ratio - but even looking fairly flat showcases some sweet grain textures for the impressive cinematography. It's dark with some rich colors (dark reds) represented well in HD and contrast is at Criterion's usual strong levels. The video exceeded my expectations.
CLICK EACH BLU-RAY CAPTURE TO SEE ALL IMAGES IN FULL 1920X1080 RESOLUTION
For both English and French versions Criterion use a linear PCM mono track at 1152 kbps (24-bit) in their respective languages. There are no effects but The Immortal Story has some wonderful music by Erik Satie - Gymnopedie No. 1 and No. 3. The dialogue sounds consistent - flat and very clean. There are optional English subtitles and my Oppo has identified it as being a region 'A' disc.
Criterion add the audio commentary from 2005 featuring film scholar Adrian Martin expanding on the theory of The Immortal Story as something of an obscurity. It's excellent and informative - and only found on the English version. We get a 1968 documentary directed by François Reichenbach and Frédéric Rossif entitled Portrait: Orson Welles that runs 3/4 of an hour. It has excerpts and fragments from different interviews with Orson Welles making a statement to journalists in fluent French about his career and his conception of life. It has optional English subtitles. There is a new, 15-minute, interview with actor Norman Eshley whose appearance in The Immortal Story came very early in his long television career. In this May 2016 piece he discusses playing the sailor in Orson Welles' film. In an interview from 2004 with cinematographer Willy Kurant he discusses shooting The Immortal Story for 15-,minutes. There is also a new, 25-minute, interview with Welles scholar François Thomas discussing the production as well as Welles's love for author Karen Blixen, who wrote under the pen name Isak Dinesen, on whose story the film is based. The package has a liner notes booklet with an essay by film critic Jonathan Rosenbaum.
July 30th, 2016
About the Reviewer: Hello, fellow Beavers! I have been interested in film since I viewed a Chaplin festival on PBS when I was around 9 years old. I credit DVD with expanding my horizons to fill an almost ravenous desire to seek out new film experiences. I currently own approximately 9500 DVDs and have reviewed over 5000 myself. I appreciate my discussion Listserv for furthering my film education and inspiring me to continue running DVDBeaver. Plus a healthy thanks to those who donate and use our Amazon links.
Although I never wanted to become one of those guys who
focused 'too much' on image and sound quality - I
find HD is swiftly pushing me in that direction.
Oppo Digital BDP-83 Universal Region FREE Blu-ray/SACD
Gary W. Tooze
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