My husband is drawn to violin concertos and collects recordings of luminaries such as Heifetz, Menuhin…and Perlman, of course. When it comes to classical music, I confess more of a love for the piano masterpieces of Rachmaninoff and Chopin but I do share his taste for virtuosos. So, when I discovered Itzhak, a snapshot of the life of virtuoso Itzhak Perlman, playing in our local theater on our “date night,” I didn’t have to do any arm twisting.
I thought we’d enjoy it. After all, I’d always found Perlman’s playing moving and emotionally stirring. But it’s a documentary, I thought, and what if it’s a roundup of talking heads kind of documentary? Or a narrator extolling the virtues of Perlman’s work and his contribution to music? Would I be demoted from my status as “family film chooser?”
Turns out my doubts were unfounded. The filmmaker honors Perlman by presenting a portrait of a passionate and joyful man, who’s overcome adversity to become a great artist, loving life and family and intent on giving back to his community through teaching young musicians.
Witnessing the model of a happy marriage built on respect and affection, and meeting Toby, Perlman’s wife of over fifty years, his biggest fan and a charming woman, in her own rite is an added bonus
I disagree with a reviewer who suggests the filmmaker didn’t dig deep to reveal the many dimensions of the man or that the film “glides lightly and uncritically along the surface of a life.” This, in reference to the hardships Perlman endured from childhood polio, which left him in leg braces, and led to some early rejections resulting from his handicap.
The film may gloss over Perlman’s struggles and interior world, but not to its detriment. We are left to form our own impressions and experience our own emotions. Watching brief images of young Itzhak, his determination to overcome adversity, and his triumphs, tugged at my heartstrings. To analyze further would have clouded our image of a giant talent, who brings exuberance and depth to every poignant note he plays.