This Week in New York Insider's Guide to Arts & Culture in New York City Since 2001



GARBO: THE SPY tells the bizarre tale of double agent Juan Pujol Garcia

GARBO: THE SPY (Edmon Roach, 2010)
Quad Cinema
34 West 13th St.
Opens Friday, November 18

Audiences are likely at first to think that Edmon Roch’s feature debut, Garbo: The Spy, is a mockumentary, a made-up movie supposedly about one of the craziest, most absurd characters of the twentieth century. But alas, it is all true. The extremely entertaining film tells the real-life tale of wacky double agent Juan Pujol Garcia, whom the British called Garbo, after the actress who played Mata Hari, and the Nazis referred to as Alaric, after the Germanic Visigoth king. Roch speaks with MI5 specialist Mark Seaman, intelligence and espionage expert Nigel West, WWII spy Aline Griffith (the countess of Romanones), journalist Xavier Vinader, who assisted Pujol in recounting his story, and various members of Pujol’s two families, who share fascinating tidbits about a rather unusual gentleman who was so determined to be a successful spy that he created a fake network of imaginary agents, duping the Germans and assuring the success of the Normandy invasion. In addition to archival and newsreel footage, propaganda material, cartoons, and photographs, Roch includes clips from such WWII and spy thrillers as Mata Hari (starring Greta Garbo), Pimpernel Smith, The Stranger, Mr. Moto’s Last Warning, Patton, The Longest Day, and Our Man in Havana, in which Alec Guinness plays a character inspired by Pujol, lending additional insight to the story. What’s perhaps most remarkable about it all is that despite more than fifty volumes of his own writings and several books about him, Pujol is not more well known, but perhaps that’s all part of the bizarre mystery surrounding him and his extraordinary exploits, which are brought to life here by writer-director-producer Roch and editor Alexander Adams, who culled through more than six hundred hours of interviews to come up with the ninety-minute documentary. And yes, it indeed a documentary, a hard-to-believe true story that, according to Roch, is only the tip of the iceberg of the strange story of Juan Pujol Garcia.

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