Garbo: The Spy
Time Out rating:
Time Out says
Posted: Mon Nov 14 2011
If we told you about Joan Pujol Garcia, we'd have to kill you. So let's just call him Garbo, the cinema-inspired moniker this perpetually persuasive double agent took during WWII. As Edmon Roch's alternately dry and compelling documentary informs us, Garbo pledged his undying allegiance to both the British Allies and the National Socialists---though only one was his true master. Uncle Adolf and his goose-stepping minions were the ones being played; the classified information their prize spy gave them was always meticulously fabricated. The biggest coup: Garbo sold the landing at Normandy to his German handlers
as a mere distraction, even after it had occurred.
So great was this secret agent's influence that he was awarded medals by both sides and convincingly faked his death after the war. Roch's doc recounts everything up to that point with a rather dull, history-lecture--like mix of archival footage, film clips (Our Man in Havana is oft-referenced) and talking heads. Then the film spectacularly rights itself for a poetic final act that details Garbo's early-'80s reemergence: Roch pairs video of the now-aged operative wandering through a series of congratulatory fetes with oddball music choices like Sparklehorse's "It's a Wonderful Life." The jarring juxtapositions only heighten the enigmatic air of the film's subject; even when he's right in front of us, he seems to be plotting his next wily act.
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Author: Keith Uhlich