The Immortal Story
Welles plays Mr. Clay, an aging and wealthy merchant, living in Macao at the turn of the century. A man of facts, disliking prophecies and fiction, he insists on making reality out of a legend which has been related by sailors for many years; he wants one sailor to be able to tell the story from his own experience. According to the tale, a rich old man pays a handsome sailor to sleep with his beautiful young wife, in order to provide an heir. Clay, who has no wife, instructs his clerk (Roger Coggio) to find a woman who can play the role. The clerk hires a no-longer-young woman (Jeanne Moreau); Clay finds a young sailor. The two spend the night together and make love, while Clay, delighted with his power, waits outside. As the sailor leaves the next morning, the clerk tells him that he can now tell the story to others, as it happened to him. The sailor, who has been moved by his encounter with the woman, replies that he would never repeat the tale, since no one would believe it. Meanwhile, the old man has died.
The dazzling virtuosity and visual pyrotechnics of Citizen Kane, The Lady from Shanghai, and The Trial have given way to a relaxed, slowly paced style, which still incorporates all of Welles' techniques (deep focus, expressionistic lighting, tracking shots). The result is a haunting, melancholy work, with an ethereal quality (enhanced by Welles' use of non-naturalistic color and Erik Satie's music).