Director Alison Chernick charmingly and movingly takes us into the life of celebrated violinist and dedicated teacher Itzhak Perlman in her documentary “Itzhak.” We not only become privy to his remarkable life story, but the film is filled with his music as we see clips of his concerts and his more intimate playing.
Perlman directly gives us insight into how he thinks about music. He discusses the intensity of what he feels and his approach to teaching. We also get comments from Toby, his wife of 50 years, with the story of how they met and what continues to keep them in tune.
The film gives us the back story of Perlman’s parents and his early years in Israel, followed by his eventual move to the United States. Having been stricken with polio as a child, he not only struggled with the handicap hindering his walking ability but had the problem of people judging him by the handicap instead of recognizing him for his extraordinary gift. This bothered him immensely.
One of the great clips in the film is his appearance as a youngster dazzling with his violin playing on the Ed Sullivan television show, which provided a national audience the opportunity to see a demonstration of his genius. There are many clips of honors in his life, including an award in Israel and another at the White House with President Obama bestowing the honor and praising him.
I was struck by a conversation he has with actor Alan Alda, who mentions that he also had polio as a youngster. The treatment Alda received was successful in leaving him without the condition that results in Perlman having to move around in his motorized vehicle. We also see how Perlman surmounts his difficulties, as, for example, when he drives a car.
So much is packed into the film, and in addition to enjoying his performing, we see Perlman as a dedicated teacher who wants to give back to others and communicate the love of music and the insights a student must have in order to enhance his or her talent. Perlman comes across as an artist who is determined to make a difference in the lives of others. A Greenwich Entertainment release. Reviewed March 6, 2018.