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Blog Posted in avatar   Jonathan Farrell's Blog

"Yentl" 25th Anniversary DVD is a treasure for Barbra Streisand fans

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By Jonathan Farrell
Posted Jul 4, 2012 in Entertainment
"Nothing's Impossible" is the motto/theme of Barbra Streisand's masterpiece "Yentl." Yes, this is a masterpiece presented by one of the most uniquely talented entertainers of our time.
For Barbra Streisand fans this 25th Anniversary edition is a must and a delight. It is hard to believe that it has been 25 years since the premiere of "Yentl." This reporter remembers when it hit theaters, while it was not a blockbuster, it made an impact.
I (this reporter) saw the movie at the Coronet Theater on Geary in San Francisco, the same large scene theater where other great movies played such as "Star Wars," "Close Encounters of The Third Kind," and "Batman."
While I remember the year vividly 1983 - I was just going off to college, I also remember seeing "Funny Lady" at that same theater years earlier as a kid. The Coronet Theater like so many cinemas is gone now. Yet, seeing "Yentl" on DVD brought back all those memories.
I recall at the time being drawn to the movie's story-line for different reasons than the way I see it today. Back then as a soon to be 20-year-old going off to college, the story line with its questioning and multiple meanings fascinated me. Also, it provided a peak into an aspect of culture and history that was little-known to me at the time.
Yentl's interest in learning the Talmud hints at even more other-worldly pursuits like wanting to learn more about The Kabbalah and deeper mysteries.
Looking at the movie today and I see more of a finely crafted cinematic story complete with music and wonderful scenery. So much of the movie as I see it today feels a bit like a more serious side of "Funny Girl" and yes even "Fiddler on the Roof." Both those stories are set at about the same time early 1900s. And, like those two musicals, "Yentl" has an outstanding score and wonderful songs.
The special treat to having a commemorative DVD is the "Special Features" and this two-disc set has all that. Only I must say, while I was thrilled to learn more about the making of "Yentl" such as the fact that movie is based upon a short story by acclaimed writer isaac bashevis singer, I was a bit disappointed in some of Streisand's director's commentary.
Yes, Streisand does give us gems of info and thought here and there. But for an avid fan it is not enough. Streisand spends a lot of time talking about "the lighting" which while interesting, it does not tell the audience much about the deeper sides of the movie itself. True her commentary does display her eye and sense of directing a picture.
But fans all know how intelligent and insightful Streisand is, so why not share more of her insights and wisdom rather than so much about technical details? For example, Streisand mentions briefly that the short story by isaac bashevis singer was presented to her shortly after completing the movie "Funny Girl" in the late 1960's. And, that it took her 14 years to bring it to the screen.
I recall reading articles back in the '80's that Streisand had a very difficult time making the movie. Many moguls she approached said, "no." And, so she had to raise the funds herself, do all the casting, etc. All out of her own finances.
Streisand says very little about that in the director's commentary on this DVD set. I also wanted to know more about isaac bashevis singer, as a friend from high school had given me a book entitled "Gimpel the Fool," a collection of short stories, that if I remember, have a similar genre like that of "Fiddler on The Roof" written by Sholem Aleichem. Only, Singer's stories are filled with a bit more irony and some pessimism.
I was curious to know if Streisand had read more of Singer's works or if any of her attention to such detail was driven by a love of such works The Talmud or any special kind of interest she had.
Streisand for me only hints at this, saying only a little and then goes right back to the lighting and the sets again. I guess, it might be best to say, that if one wants to know more about the deeper meanings and the insights into why Streisand made this wonderful film, one has to watch the film.
Watch the film, and then listen carefully to the script, the lyrics of the songs and since she talks so much about the lighting and the sets in the commentary to look to the outstanding cinematography. There are lots of great moments which I am certain many others have examined for meaning and symbolism.
Nothing more to say other than this is a gem, a masterpiece and one that has held up over time.

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