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Film Review

By Frederic and Mary Ann Brussat

 

A Tickle in the Heart
Directed by Stefan Schwietert
First Run Features Home Video 07/04 DVD/VHS Documentary
Not Rated

Filmmaker Stefan Schwietert has great respect and admiration for the Epstein brothers, who are known in America as "the Kings of Klezmer," a popular Yiddish musical genre. In this fascinating documentary, he presents an up-close and personal portrait of these three brothers who live in a Florida retirement community yet still travel to perform their music. Max, now 83, is the patriarch in the clan and master of the saxophone. He bought instruments for his other two brothers when they were young and made it possible for them to join him in this unique labor of love. Willie, who plays trumpet, is the manager for the act. Julius, the youngest, plays drums.

In the 1960s in Brooklyn's Jewish communities, the Epstein Brothers were so busy they had to split up so that each has his group of musicians to play weddings and Bar Mitzvahs. They retired for a while and were surprised to find that in the 1990s there was a revival of interest in Klezmer music. In one scene, the Epsteins travel to Berlin to make a CD of their music and perform a concert where only a small number of the audience is Jewish.

Max is now tutoring others in this musical form and enjoying his reign as a modern master of an ancient European musical genre. He seems especially happy to give a private performance for three men on the street in Poland where his parents once lived before coming to America in the early 1900s. A Tickle in the Heart contains plenty of samples of Klezmer music but the most commendable aspect of this documentary is that it offers a delightful portrait of three men who have not allowed age or infirmity to stop them from sharing with the world what they love to do best.

 

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by Frederic and Mary Ann Brussat
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