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Itzhak Perlman

“ITZHAK” My rating: B 

82 minutes | No MPAA rating

Less a biography than a personality study, “Itzhak” follows violinist Itzhak Perlman over several weeks.

For a classical music genius, he appears to be a pretty relatable guy.

When we first see him he’s navigating  a motorized scooter through the bowels of Shea Stadium (a polio victim, he can walk only with crutches). He’s wearing a Mets jersey and preparing to play the national anthem before the game.

Perlman appears to be as giddy about being among athletes as a 12-year-old kid. In fact, the Israeli-born musician is a baseball geek.

Joy and enthusiasm radiate from this film, largely because director Alison Chernick has such an overwhelmingly charismatic subject.  While the film does employ archival footage (like the 14-year-old Perlman’s American TV debut on Ed Sullivan’s Sunday night show) and a few instances of talking-head reportage, the film mostly eavesdrops on the man as he goes about the business of both music and life.

Very nearly as important to the film as Perlman is his wife, Toby, an adorably energetic and enthusiastic individual who admits that she proposed to her future husband.  They appear to be intellectual equals whose mutual fondness cannot be shaken even by rigorous criticism (Toby has no qualms about picking at performances which aren’t up to the high bar Itzhak has set for himself).

Whether sitting in with Billy Joel’s band or trading childhood stories with old friends, riveting audiences in the concert hall or holding a master class for young players, Perlman comes off as utterly approachable, friendly and pleased (not smug) when it comes to his life.

We should all be so lucky.

| Robert W. Butler

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