The Moon and the Stars


by Johnny Web (Uncle Scoopy; Greg Wroblewski)

This is an entry into the "show must go on" category, but a more serious one than usual. The circumstances which may close down the production are far more dire than skittish backers, skeptical parents or censors. The production is threatened by World War 2 itself. The story takes place in Rome in the late summer of 1939 and a multi-national production is rushing to complete a non-musical production of Tosca before Germany invades Poland and unleashes hell in Europe. The beginning of the war will affect more than just shooting schedules and cash sources. The members of the cast and crew are about to be re-cast as enemies in real life, and many will have to flee Italy. The film has an Italian producer, but from a Nazi perspective he's not one of the good Italians because he's triply cursed with liberal anti-fascism, Jewishness and homosexuality.

Tosca's co-stars are a British man with a wife in a mental institution and a German woman in a loveless marriage to a Nazi. Predictably, they fall into a doomed love affair, but the romantic pairing of 62-year-old Jonathan Pryce with Catherine McCormack never really seems to work. The couple had absolutely no electricity between them, to the extent that the film was more than half over before I figured out that Pryce's character was not supposed to be the gay confidante but was, in fact, the love interest. When the two bid farewell, presumably forever, in their hotel, the scene just never conveyed the overwhelming sadness which two lonely people must have felt after finally finding love's bloom and then being forced to nip it in its bud.

The film makes both tacit and explicit references to Michael Curtiz, the Hungarian director who made Casablanca. Curtiz had not yet made that masterpiece by 1939, but he was already the most famous Hungarian director in Hollywood history, and was the idol of the fictional Hungarian director portrayed in this story. In homage, many of the vintage Curtiz scene transitions, wipes and so forth, are used in both The Moon and the Stars and in the Tosca within it. It is also probably not a coincidence that the scheming Nazi in this film bears a very strong resemblance to the actor who played Major Strasser in Casablanca. The most direct attempt to evoke Curtiz occurs in the farewell between the film's lovers as they are separated by the war. It's a scene that tries to evoke the same kind of feeling as the "hill of beans" farewell in Casablanca, which is considered one of the ten most memorable scenes in history.

As far as wartime farewells go, I knew Casablanca, senator, and you are no Casablanca.

The drama comes up as short as the romance. The sub-plot, in which the Jewish producer is swindled out of everything he has by a cagey Nazi pretending to be his friend, never really produces the dramatic tension that should inhere in such a story, and a key element of that sub-plot is spoiled by the fact that something which should be a last-minute surprise is telegraphed too obviously in an earlier scene. The dramatic rush to shoot the final three days of the filming schedule in one long overnighter could have been a great opportunity to show dozens of people rising to a difficult occasion under immense pressure and working through fatigue and short tempers, but instead it comes off as a rather routine period with no real sense of urgency, followed by an unlikely champagne celebration.

Because of all those missed opportunities, the film misses the mark overall, even though it has good moments, good intentions and good ideas. In addition to the Curtiz homages, the overall conceit is that it is a 1939-style film about making another 1939-style film in 1939, and in some respects the machinations and betrayals shown in the film-within-a-film version of Tosca reflect the events unfolding simultaneously in 1939 Italy. The film can't be faulted for laziness or lack of ambition. The Moon and the Stars has a good enough concept, and was made by some smart people, but it just seems to lack the passion and drama necessary to rise above the pack and be noticed.


* all regions

* Spanish and Portuguese subtitles









5.9 IMDB summary (of 10)


The producers have not been able to strike a deal for North American distribution.


  • There is male nudity (rear) from Rupert Friend and Niccolo Senni.
  • Catherine McCormack shows her breasts in a very charming scene in which the director is trying to get her to give up a little extra cleavage for the sake of the box office. She just whips out her breasts and asks, "Is this enough?"


Our Grade:

If you are not familiar with our grading system, you need to read the explanation, because the grading is not linear. For example, by our definition, a C is solid and a C+ is a VERY good movie. There are very few Bs and As. Based on our descriptive system, this film is a:


It's a so-so small audience movie, not bad, and with a lot of good intentions, but short of great.