Mark Reviews Movies

Itzhak

ITZHAK

3 Stars (out of 4)

Director: Alison Chernick

MPAA Rating: Not rated

Running Time: 1:20

Release Date: 3/9/18 (limited); 4/6/18 (wider)


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Capsule review by Mark Dujsik | April 5, 2018

Director Alison Chernick examines the life and career of the great violinist Itzhak Perlman in a fairly straightforward way. Itzhak, though, isn't really a biography, although the filmmaker certainly touches upon her subject's early life and a few career milestones, which are accompanied by photos and archival footage. Instead, Chernick simply follows the musician around for an indeterminate period of time, allowing him to tell his stories, while letting us see how he lives and works.

The approach is so simple, but it's quite effective, particularly because Perlman is so genial and accommodating to the presence and scrutiny of the camera. Here's a man who knows what he has accomplished and feels quite comfortable letting people in on his personal life. It feels intimate in a way that so many documentaries about a specific person often do not.

Perlman, who contracted polio as a child in Israel and has been unable to walk on his own since then, is not a secretive man. This might be the result of playing the violin for as long as he has, making his first appearance on television as a teenager, which helped him gain admission to Julliard. There undoubtedly is something unique to the instrument in its closeness to the face and the precision required to play it. Perlman's own face is constantly expressive when we see him playing his cherished violin—an imperfect work of craftsmanship, according to a restorer, that, in the musician's opinion, suits him perfectly.

We watch him teaching his students, passing on knowledge and, he believes, learning as much from them as he teaches. We see him at home, now restricted to a motorized scooter, except when moving to a podium to conduct a student orchestra. We gain a good knowledge of the relationship with his wife Toby—herself a violinist—who know what she wants and likes (She proposed to him backstage after hearing him play), while being unafraid of sharing her opinions (She is Perlman toughest, most honest, and most helpful critic).

Itzhak makes the wise decision to let Perlman speak for himself, meaning that his passion becomes as much of a subject as the man himself. It's a fine, if perhaps too brief, portrait of one of the finest musicians working today.

Copyright © 2018 by Mark Dujsik. All rights reserved.

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