Arnon Goldfinger’s The Komediant seemingly unearths lost chapters in New York’s cultural past. This is the story of the Burstein family, leading figures in the city’s Golden Era of Yiddish theater. Goldfinger’s use of archival footage is both playful and mournful, revealing an East Village that was once predominantly Jewish. Pesach’ke Burstein came to the United States to pursue his dream of acting, channeling his Orthodox parents’ disdain for his craft into his popular opera “The Village Wedding.” Pesach’ke’s wife, the beautiful and spry Lillian Lux, hauntingly recalls their ironic escape from German-occupied Poland and their rising popularity on the Yiddish stage. A tearful Lillian recalls a fan’s revelation that many Jews went to the gas chamber while singing segments from “The Village Wedding.” However underground the Bursteins may have been, their presence on the Yiddish stage became a testament to Jewish perseverance. The rest of The Komediant is nowhere near as gloomy. The film is also concerned with the constrictive hold the theater had on the Burstein family. Goldfinger expertly explores the hostility that tore a family apart when their jobs forced them into close corners. Pesache’ke remains a rather elusive figure though something fascinatingly akin to a product of myth thanks to Goldfinger’s bittersweet use of archival footage.
- New Yorker Films
- 82 min
- Arnon Goldfinger
- Lillian Lux, Fyvush Finkel, Mike Burstyn, Susan Burstein-Roth, Shifra Lerer, Israel Becker, Mina Bern
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