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The Komediant


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The Komediant + Michael Tilson Thomas: The Thomashefskys + Golden Age of Second Avenue
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Product Details

  • Actors:  Lillian Lux, Susan Burstein-Roth Mike Burstyn
  • Format: Black & White, Color, Subtitled, Widescreen, Dolby, NTSC
  • Language: English, Hebrew, Yiddish
  • Subtitles: English
  • Region: Region 1 (U.S. and Canada only. Read more about DVD formats.)
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
  • Number of discs: 1
  • Rated: NR (Not Rated)
  • Studio: New Yorker
  • DVD Release Date: August 24, 2004
  • Run Time: 85 minutes
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (5 customer reviews)
  • ASIN: B0002CHK8Q
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #214,471 in Movies & TV (See Top 100 in Movies & TV)
  • Learn more about "The Komediant" on IMDb

Special Features

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Editorial Reviews

The glory days of the Yiddish stage are brought to life in this funny saga of a legendary theatrical family, the Bursteins.

Arriving in New York in 1924, Pesach’ke Burstein, the dancing-singing comedian, quickly became a leading figure in the Golden Era of Yiddish theater. On stage, he met and fell in love with rising star Lillian Lux who would become his wife. Embarking together on triumphant overseas tours as a couple, soon the Bursteins became the parents of twins, Mike and Susan, who before long were given stage names and accompanied their parents regularly on stage as the family performed around the globe. In time, however, the pressures of theatrical life would take its toll on the family. Smoothly incorporating rare archival footage and interviews with Yiddish stage veterans (including Fyvush Finkel), this tightly edited, briskly paced documentary is as richly bittersweet – filled with laughter and tears, schmaltz and grit – as the Yiddish theater itself.

Customer Reviews

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

22 of 22 people found the following review helpful By Dr. Stephen Fleet on March 18, 2005
Format: DVD
This DVD may not be for everyone, but if you're interested in the Yiddish stage and Jewish history of the 20th century, it's an exceptionally well done documentary.

The Komediant (meaning the actor more so than comedian) tells the story of the Burstein family, Yiddish stage actors both in Europe and the U.S. The backdrop is Jewish immigration to the U.S., and how the New York theater becomes the epicenter of the Yiddish cultural world, particularly crucial when German persecution rises in Europe.

Family life and the actors' life on the road, cultural tensions between Yiddish and non-Yiddish theater, and the early conflicts between Yiddish and Hebrew in Israel all weave together in an interesting tale.
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10 of 10 people found the following review helpful By Alan A. Elsner VINE VOICE on September 6, 2008
Format: DVD
This utterly charming, heart-warming movie looks back at the Yiddish theater through the eyes of one family. Pesach'ke Burstein began his career in Poland in the early years of the 20th century when he ran away from home to join a theater troupe. He arrived in New York in the 1920s and was an immediate star. His story is told mainly by his widow and co-star Lillian Lux (Pesach'ke died in 1986) and his son and daughter Mike and Susan who as young infants joined their parents on the stage.
We travel with this family all over the world -- to Poland where the Bursteins barely got out ahead of the Nazis in 1939; to Israel where the Zionist establishment tried to wipe out Yiddish as a language of the shameful diaspora, imposed a special tax on theater conducted in foreign languages and included Yiddish in this category (Israel wanted everyone to speak Hebrew); and to New York and the Catskills where we visit one of the great old resorts where so many talented comedians got their start, now fallen into sad disrepair.
Of course, there is a sad trajectory to this story. Yiddish, once so vibrant, is barely spoken nowadays and the stars of yesteryear are all in the cemetery. But this story is told with such vigor and enthusiasm that it overcomes any melancholy and ends up being a stirring affirmation of life. The movie also doesn't avoid the rifts the family experienced, although there is never any doubt about the love they all felt for one another.
Pesach'ke's amazing bird whistling and Susan's ventriloquism are a special high point.
You want to know what inspired movies and musicals like "The Producers?" Watch this.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful By Gerald Spector on August 15, 2009
Format: DVD
This award winning documentary certainly deserved its honor. It is extremely entertaining and extremely educational. It is more than the story of the Burstein family. It encompasses the history of the Yiddish theater in America and in Israel, the story of Jewish labor unions, the intrigues of competing troupes when there is no copyright protection. It is a movie that is highly recommended.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Bob F. on February 7, 2013
Format: DVD Verified Purchase
Although I have a love for the Yiddish language, I knew virtually nothing about Yiddish theater, and through the weaving of the story of the remarkably talented (and sturdy!) Bursteins, I gained a knowledge of that institution from its great success in the villages of Eastern Europe and throughout the world.

I was amazed by the willingness of the Burstein family to share not only their struggle and success, but the lingering resentments over the children going on their own, the daughter leaving the business and the son having his own successful career in Israel and in the United State.

The story moves along well, accompanied by historical photos and an amazing quantity of film of both performances and family activities.

After watching this DVD, I had the illusion of having seen a complete history of Yiddish theater, which is a testament to the skills of the director and compilers of this material--and this is not dry history: there is a light touch and humor throughout.

(The only quibble is a scene in a New York cemetery where many of the actors and others from Yiddish theater are buried. It would have added a worthy touch if something had been said about the Thomashefkys having bought plots so that workers in the theater would have a common resting place)
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Richard C. Katz on June 26, 2013
Format: DVD Verified Purchase
Funny, sad and touching, this documentary is about a Yiddish theater comedian who came to New York and prospered as an entertainer and in life in an America that allowed people to achieve their dreams. Most people discuss the subject in English. English subtitles are optional for Yiddish discussion and lyrics. Hebrew subtitles are also an option.
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