I can count on one finger the number of stories I’ve seen on film about Jewish life in Communist Romania, and that’s appropriate: The Jewish characters in “Closer to the Moon” are figuratively flipping one big finger at the Communist authorities throughout this comedic drama (or dark comedy) based on a true story.
Five Jewish friends from the Romanian Resistance in World War II, having helped bring in the Communists after the defeat of Nazis, find that the Romania of Stalinist purges has no place for them by 1959. Amid the space race launched by Sputnik, they look to the West for their inspiration and not only stage a dramatic daylight bank robbery a la Bonnie and Clyde or Jessie James, but do so under the cover of a fake movie shoot.
That leads to an actual movie shoot re-creating the heist when the authorities decide to turn their crime and their trial into a propaganda film. So you’re watching a movie about the shooting of a movie about the fake shooting of a movie — a farcical sequence that fits the very Jewish fatalism of the bank robbers.
“Moon” is a high-quality production filled with familiar Hollywood faces, led by Vera Farmiga of “Up in the Air” and Mark Strong of “Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy” and those British-villain Jaguar commercials (linking him to “The Physician” and Jaguar co-star Ben Kingsley).
(The Feb. 2 screening is sold out, but tickets remain for Feb. 5 at GTC Merchants Walk, Feb. 13 at UA Tara and Feb. 17 at Lefont Sandy Springs; ajff.org.)
— Michael Jacobs