Itzhak

Poster for Itzhak

“Good music and good company make Itzhak a pleasure, though those seeking a methodical career overview should look elsewhere than this genial personality sketch of the world-famous violinist. Alison Chernick’s documentary captures the Manhattan-dwelling subject at home and on tour around the globe, hobnobbing with classical colleagues as well as the likes of close friend Alan Alda and Barrack Obama.

Itzhak Perlamn was born in 1945 Tel Aviv to Polish émigré parents who were non-musical, though they quickly sussed their prodigy son’s talent. Others did not, if only because they thought he couldn’t get far on the leg braces that polio forced on him at age 4. Nonetheless, at 13 he was both enrolled at Juilliard and making his first appearance on The Ed Sullivan Show.

We get just glimpses of his meteoric subsequent rise in archival performance and interview clips. Instead, Chernick’s main focus is on the subject’s everyday life as he enters his eighth decade. Perlman is a garrulous personality who seems comfortable in almost any setting. Yet he appears to take a conversational back seat around wife Toby, who’s also a violinist and a perfect soul mate in seemingly every additional respect. Their busy, curious, affectionately meddling dynamic sets the general tone here, making much of Itzhak play like an invitation to spend the weekend with a family of acquaintances who just happen to include one international celebrity.

It’s intimate enough that we grasp how important Jewish identity, culture and ritual is in their lives, and casual enough that such matters never require formal ‘talking head’ explanation.” (Dennis Harvey, Variety)

“It’s less concerned with covering the totality of his life than evoking his life force, which is good-humored, earthy and inspiring. A joyous film about a joyous man.” (Matt Zoller Seitz, RogerEbert.com)

“Think of Itzhak as a revealing scrapbook of Perlman’s favorite stories.” (Simon Abrams, Village Voice)