Appellate Judge Mac McEntire prefers the quasar and the nebulae.
"It's all make believe. Perhaps that's what why we love it. The world outside is so cruel."
What is The Moon and the Stars about? In one way, it's about a group of filmmakers and actors trying to get their movie finished before World War II breaks out. In another way, it's harder to describe. The Moon and the Stars is about art versus politics, art versus business, the cost of fame, the nature of sacrifice, and a lot more.
Facts of the Case
It's Italy, 1939. Italian Davide Rieti (Alfred Molina, Spider-Man 2) is funding the production of a historic epic. Among his cast are a bawdy Englishman, James Clavel (Jonathan Pryce, Brazil), and a lovely German starlet Kristina Baumgarten (Catherine McCormick, Shadow of the Vampire).
Fascism is on the rise, and many members of the production feel the pressure to get out of dodge before the war breaks out. In this multinational group, Germans and Italians are essentially safe, the English want to get out while they can, and anyone Jewish is in danger, already living in secret. Ditto for anyone homosexual.
Rieti is both gay and Jewish, putting him in more jeopardy than anyone else. But, without him, the movie won't get made.
Before we get into the nitty-gritty of the themes and ideas presented in the movie, first it must be said that, before anything else, The Moon and the Stars is a well-filmed and well-acted drama. The Italian setting is just gorgeous, and director John Irvin (Hamburger Hill) and director of photography Elemer Ragalyi (Jakob the Liar) bathe the whole thing in lovely golden light. The actors make their characters feel well-rounded and genuine. The script, an increasingly rare ensemble story, has layers on layers, but also possesses a good amount of quirky humor, which keeps the whole thing from getting too dreary.
Beyond the basic drama, though, the film has a lot to say, on a handful of complicated subjects.
• The art and the politics
All this bunch wants to do is make the movie. It's where everyone's hearts are at. As the fascists rapidly rise to power, all this group can focus on is how it will affect filming. It's not that they're living in a bubble, or unaware of what's happening around them, it's that they are committed to their art, no matter what the cost.
• The art and the commerce
• The fame and the obsession
Just as the plot has several layers, so does the character of Clavel. At first, he seems like the stereotypical "celebrity on a rampage," throwing tantrums on the set, boozing it up, and hornily pursuing anything female. Both the script and Pryce's excellent performance, however, gradually reveal more and more of Clavel's humanity. While others escape the horrors of the upcoming war on trains or by crossing the ocean, Clavel's "obnoxious actor" persona his way of escaping. His outrageous behavior is a defense mechanism. We know this because of those times when we see the "real" him and how emotional and vulnerable he really is.
The widescreen picture on this disc nicely captures the lush cinematography. The 2.0 sound is decent, but I wonder if it could have better if beefed up to a 5.1 track, especially with the film's lovely classical musical soundtrack. There's a big zero for extras, which is another disappointment. It would have been great to hear about the origins of the story anecdotes from the production.
The Moon and the Stars is a fascinating film with terrific acting. The sub-par DVD presentation, though, makes this one better as a rental.
The not guilty and the not guilty.
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Scales of Justice
Studio: Lightyear Entertainment
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