CLOSER TO THE MOON – Review by Susan Granger

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In Bucharest in 1959, a disillusioned group of old friends from the WWII Jewish Resistance hijack a van delivering cash to the Romanian National Bank, staging the robbery so it looks like a movie shoot – which fascinates a young onlooker, a café waiter named Virgil (Henry Lloyd). In time, the four men and a woman are arrested, tried in a kangaroo court and convicted. While waiting for their execution, they’re forced by the Securitate – a.k.a. Romanian secret police – to re-enact the robbery in a slyly anti-Semitic propaganda film depicting the crime. Read on…

Meanwhile – being in the right place at the right time – enables Virgil to become an eager assistant to an alcoholic Romanian film director (Allan Corduner) and, later, he’s the cameraman assigned to chronicle the re-enactment which is supervised by bumbling bureaucrats.

Exhibiting remarkable camaraderie, the intrepid Rosenthal gang, as they’re called, consists of Max (Mark Strong), the chief police inspector; Alice (Vera Farmiga), a political-science academic; Iorgu (Christian McKay), a history professor; Dumi (Tim Plester), a rocket scientist; and Razvan (Joe Armstrong), a respected journalist.

But what prompted them to steal bags of banknotes that were worthless outside of Romania? Was it a Zionist plot that failed? Was it a conspiracy to get money to send Jews to Israel? Why did they commit such a heinous crime – one they realized would inevitably lead to the death penalty?

Eventually, only Virgil will know the real answer to these questions, as flashbacks reveal a secret that the Communist authorities never discovered.

Based on a true story, the provocative, darkly comedic, absurdist drama is cleverly written and boldly directed by Nae Caranfil, who has chosen to have the cast – energetically propelled by Farmiga and Strong – speak English instead of Romanian.

On the Granger Movie Gauge of 1 to 10, “Closer to the Moon” is a fascinating 7 – with glimpses of the real documentary over the closing credits.

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Susan Granger

Susan Granger is a product of Hollywood. Her natural father, S. Sylvan Simon, was a director and producer at R.K.O., M.G.M. and Columbia Pictures; her adoptive father, Armand Deutsch, produced movies at M.G.M. As a child, Susan appeared in movies with Abbott & Costello, Red Skelton, Lucille Ball, Margaret O'Brien and Lassie. She attended Mills College in California, studying journalism with Pierre Salinger, and graduated from the University of Pennsylvania, Phi Beta Kappa, with highest honors in journalism. During her adult life, Susan has been on radio and television as an anchorwoman and movie/drama critic. Her newspaper reviews have been syndicated around the world, and she has appeared on American Movie Classics cable television. In addition, her celebrity interviews and articles have been published in REDBOOK, PLAYBOY, FAMILY CIRCLE, COSMOPOLITAN, WORKING WOMAN and THE NEW YORK TIMES, as well as in PARIS MATCH, ELLE, HELLO, CARIBBEAN WORLD, ISLAND LIFE, MACO DESTINATIONS, NEWS LIMITED NEWSPAPERS (Australia), UK DAILY MAIL, UK SUNDAY MIRROR, DS (France), LA REPUBBLICA (Italy), BUNTE (Germany), VIP TRAVELLER (Krisworld) and many other international publications through SSG Syndicate. Susan also lectures on the "Magic and Mythology of Hollywood" and "Don't Take It Personally: Conquering Criticism and other Survival Skills," originally published on tape by Dove Audio.