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Sunday, March 18, 2012

Yentl (1983)

A young Jewish woman (Barbra Streisand, who also directed) in 1904 Eastern Europe (most likely Poland) secretly breaks Jewish laws by studying the Talmud, which is forbidden to women, with the help from her Rabbi father (Nehemiah Persoff). Determined to continue her studies after he father's death, she disguises herself as a man in order to continue her studies at a Yeshiva (a Jewish educational institution). But it is as a male, that she discovers her true feelings as a woman. A labor of love for Streisand, her passions shows in every frame. It's an exquisite musical drama. Often dismissed as a vanity project or called TOOTSIE ON THE ROOF, Streisand tempers the film's feminism with pathos and humor. It's near amazing that this is a film by a first time director, so assured is her hand. A compelling portrait of a woman struggling for an identity in a male dominated society that allows her no options except wife and mother. The score with its gorgeous Michel Legrand melodies and the telling lyrics of Alan and Marilyn Bergman is a beauty and took home an Oscar for their efforts. The superb cinematography is by David Watkin (an Oscar winner for OUT OF AFRICA). Based on YENTL THE YESHIVA BOY by Isaac Bashevis Singer. With Mandy Patinkin, Amy Irving (in an Oscar nominated performance) and Steven Hill.

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