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|Closer to the Moon|
dir-scr Nae Caranfil
prd Michael Fitzgerald, Denis Friedman, Alessandro Leone, Bobby Paunescu, Renata Ranieri
with Harry Lloyd, Mark Strong, Vera Farmiga, Anton Lesser, Christian McKay, Tim Plester, Joe Armstrong, Allan Corduner, David de Keyser, Frances Cuka, Marcin Walewski, Monica Barladeanu
release Rom 7.Mar.14, US 17.Apr.15,
Making movies: Lloyd and Farmiga
|R E V I E W B Y R I C H C L I N E|
A jarringly uneven tone undermines this astonishing true story. Filmmaker Caranfil assembles this with an odd mix of zany farce and harrowing drama, which leaves the actors looking like they've wandered in from a variety of other movies. Still, the events recounted are riveting, and some of the characters resonate nicely.
In 1958 Bucharest, waiter Virgil (Lloyd) is inspired when he sees a robbery staged on a movie location, so he quits his job and joins the film industry, eventually becoming a cinematographer for established director Fabius (Corduner). He's then hired to shoot an educational docudrama about that robbery, which was actually a real heist disguised as a movie. His five actors are the real robbers (Strong, Farmiga, McKay, Plester and Armstrong), who are waiting on death row. Meanwhile, the government's security director (Lesser) is trying to understand why they deliberately committed this capital crime.
The story's intriguing mystery unfolds in a series of chapters from different perspectives, filling in the background of the gang, which is made up of community leaders who fought the Nazis then were sidelined by the Soviets because they were Jews. This political complexity adds a real kick, as do the lively characters. The convicts are especially energetic, seizing every chance to manipulate the system while knowing the firing squad awaits. And when their motives are revealed, it's darkly sobering.
So it's bizarre that everything's played like a jolly romp. Farmiga moderates her character nicely between the frivolity and emotion, especially as she connects with Lloyd's engaging Virgil. Strong is the other central figure, the cheeky ringleader who doesn't seem to take anything seriously, including the fact that he has a responsible job and a son. And while Lesser has an important role as the tenacious official, he's almost a comical villain thwarted by the goofy antics of these witty scamps.
Except that the stakes are enormous. The film grapples with the way the Soviets ruthlessly ruled Romania (and the Eastern Bloc), insisting that Communism created a perfect society and proving it with a fabric of lies in news media and history textbooks. But these rash heroes found a chink in the armour, and the film kind of depicts their bravery as foolhardy. But the ending is very strong, and the closing credit sequence features clips from the actual 1960 re-enactment movie, which is heart-stopping after watching this lighthearted dramatisation.
|R E A D E R R E V I E W S|
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© 2015 by Rich Cline, Shadows on the Wall|
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