The Komediant

Written by Oshra Schwartz and directed by Arnon Goldfinger, this 2000 documentary lovingly chronicles the life of Yiddish theater legend Pesachke Burstein (1896-1986), who began his long itinerant career in Europe and then in 1924 emigrated to New York City, where his comic routines became a sensation. Burstein's wife, Lillian Lux, is a fascinating interview, both coquettish and maternal when recalling her stage partnership with a man two decades her senior and clearly the star. The couple's twin children, Mike Burstyn and Susan Burstein-Roth, describe with some ambivalence their life on the road as part of the act, which took them “anywhere that had Jews except Russia and China.” Along with the history of Yiddish theater in America, Schwartz and Goldfinger touch on many grand issues (theater rivalry, anti-Semitism, child labor, the generation gap, Israelis' hostility toward the Yiddish tongue) but stop short of exploring them, focusing instead on a family that personifies a dying tradition. In English and subtitled Yiddish and Hebrew. 85 min.

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