Garbo: The Spy

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Overview

Juan Pujol was called "Garbo" by British intelligence agents because they regarded him as "the greatest actor in the world." And perhaps he was -- he was good enough to persuade Nazi authorities that he was working for them even as he was serving the Allies at the same time, and received high decorations from both sides without either learning his true identity. Pujol was a Spaniard who was determined to work against the Axis during World War II, and provided German intelligence with information that he'd ...
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Overview

Juan Pujol was called "Garbo" by British intelligence agents because they regarded him as "the greatest actor in the world." And perhaps he was -- he was good enough to persuade Nazi authorities that he was working for them even as he was serving the Allies at the same time, and received high decorations from both sides without either learning his true identity. Pujol was a Spaniard who was determined to work against the Axis during World War II, and provided German intelligence with information that he'd received through a network of 27 spies in Europe and the U.K. Of course, those spies never existed, the information he gave the Germans was largely false, and his insistence to the Germans that the Normandy landing was just a distraction helped make the successful D-Day campaign possible. However, while the Germans didn't know who Pujol was, neither did the British, and while he was reported dead in 1949, three decades later it was discovered that Pujol was alive and using another identity in South America. Filmmaker Edmon Roch uses interviews, newsreel footage, vintage photographs, clips from Hollywood espionage dramas and WWII propaganda films to tell the true story of one of the greatest and most elusive spies of his generation in Garbo: The Spy aka Garbo: El Espia and Garbo: The Man Who Saved the World. The film was an official selection at the 2010 San Francisco Film Festival.
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Special Features

Interview with intelligence & Espionage expert Nigel West (32 min.); Sonic Deception: WWII training film )27 min.); Original theatrical trailer; Filmmaker biography
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Editorial Reviews

All Movie Guide - Nathan Southern
Juan Pujol Garcia 1912-88 is quite a rarity: a subject so intriguing that he makes any documentary profile unsinkable. This outwardly unassuming Barcelona native established himself as the single most-accomplished spy of World War II with stunning rapidity and ease. Nicknamed "Garbo" as an homage to his thespian-like ability to slip from one guise to another, he was hired by the Nazis to collect British intelligence secrets, but he actually spent years as a double agent, building a bedrock of elaborate deceptions that drove the Axis powers to the point of unmitigated failure. If presented in a fictional context, the fantastic minutiae of this tale would strain the belief of even the most gullible -- from the byzantine network of imaginary transcontinental operatives that Garcia created and sustained for Germany, to his ability to distract the Nazis from the Normandy landing and reorient them toward Pas de Calais, to an aura of trustworthiness so convincing that surviving Nazis continued to pay Garcia retroactively for his wartime services despite the worthlessness of his strategic information. If this tale sounds entertaining, it is. One need only wonder why it took decades for an enterprising filmmaker to unearth the details. Spanish director Edmon Roch can be commended for his realization of this goal, but that's about all that can be said for the director. He makes one constantly aware of the two greatest risks associated with this documentary subject: his almost impenetrably enigmatic personality and a dearth of photographs or videos of him. To compensate for the latter, the director builds the movie on an ill-advised visual foundation: clips from classic Hollywood movies such as Carol Reed's Cold War comedy Our Man in Havana and the Peter Lorre vehicle Mr. Moto's Last Warning. Roch presumably did this to reinforce the sense of Garcia as an actor, but it doesn't really work. At worst, the cutaways just add hackneyed kitsch to the tale. Granted, one could make a case that the clips help illustrate the degree to which Garcia's tale remains shrouded by the same sort of mythmaking prevalent in the spy films of the period and must be factually unearthed from that context, though the editing fails to support this transition during the second half of the film. Equally unsettling are some weird stylistic choices that Roch makes, such as an inexplicable decision to omit the identities of his interviewees until halfway through the picture, and one particularly loathsome bit of self-indulgence that involves gradually lowering an interviewee's voice during a commentary about inaudibility. It all comes off as highly amateurish and not the slightest bit effective. One can also fault Roch for failing to disclose information regarding the final decades of Garcia's life in Venezuela his ownership of a bookstore, for example or the date and details of his death in the late '80s. As indicated, though, the film is far from being an unmitigated failure. It succeeds to a surprising degree, despite the clumsy presentation, thanks to a fascinating true story. The narrative takes some time to find its footing, though by the time we get to the animated illustrations of Garcia's operative charts, the mesmerizing tale of the Normandy diversion, and Garcia's reemergence in Thatcher-era Britain, we're emotionally hooked. While one can't imagine that Garcia would be proud of the shoddy treatment afforded him here, he would likely be moved by the overall arc and sweep of his own life as played out onscreen and the film's central conviction that the Allies owed much of their success to his efforts.
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Product Details

  • Release Date: 4/17/2012
  • UPC: 720229915045
  • Original Release: 2009
  • Source: First Run Features
  • Presentation: Subtitled
  • Time: 1:33:00
  • Format: DVD
  • Sales rank: 44,742

Cast & Crew

Performance Credits
Nigel West Participant
Mark Seaman Participant
Xavier Vinader Participant
Stan Vranckx Participant
Aline Griffith Participant
Juan Pujol Participant
Technical Credits
Edmon Roch Director, Producer, Screenwriter
Alexander Adams Associate Producer, Editor, Musical Direction/Supervision
Joaquin Bergamin Cinematographer
Belen Bernuy Producer
Victoria Borras Associate Producer
Brian Eno Songwriter
Gabriel Guerra Cinematographer
Sandra Hermida Producer
Maria Hervera Screenwriter
Isaki Lacuesta Screenwriter
Bet Rourich Cinematographer
Patricia Ruiz Associate Producer
Oriol Tarrago Sound/Sound Designer
Fernando Velázquez Score Composer
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Scene Index

Disc #1 -- Garbo: The Spy
1. Points of Deception [6:48]
2. Who Was Arabel? [5:44]
3. Juan Pujol Garcia [11:36]
4. Lisbon [7:33]
5. The Double Game [11:02]
6. Codes and Ciphers [7:56]
7. Prelude To a Diversion [10:14]
8. Normandy [11:58]
9. After the Years [:31]
10. End Credits [12:25]
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Menu

Disc #1 -- Garbo: The Spy
   Play
   Chapters
   Extras
      Interview With Intelligence & Espionage Expert Nigel West
      Sonic Deception: WWII Training Film
      Original Theatrical Trailer
      Filmmaker Biography
      Trailer Gallery
         The Man Nobody Knew
         The Trials Of Henry Kissinger
         Surviving Progress
         The Most Dangerous Man In America
   First Run Features
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Customer Reviews

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Sort by: Showing 1 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted January 1, 2013

    Most Interesting.

    I found this very interesting and amazing. I highly recommend watching this. I am thankful that we have men and women who have risked everything to fight for our freedoms. I thank God for our vets all over the world who stood up for us then and now. It only takes one person, one pray to get the ball rolling. This is inspiring for todays's troubles, that one person can start to make the difference, hanging in there alone, to be united with others who believe that good should overcome and not be allowed to fall to the way-side. God bless the people who put this film together and God bless all the Garbo's out there.

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