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Santa Barbara caught a tasty glimpse of Itzhak Perlman’s life outside of his classical music world when he played klezmer music at the Granada last year. In this touching and persuasive documentary on the celebrity virtuoso, one of a handful of household name-brand American soloists of world renown, the Itzhak beyond classical culture begins in the beginning, as the rabid baseball fan who plays the National Anthem for a Mets game. In a blissfully narrator-free format, art-minded documentarian Alison Chernick follows the violinist from his home in New York City to his roots in Tel Aviv, sitting in with Billy Joel at Madison Square Garden, and, through archive footage, his U.S. TV debut as a 13-year-old on the Ed Sullivan Show and receiving the Medal of Honor Award from his friend Barack Obama. Chernick manages an impressive feat of creating a compelling portrait of the man (whose natural charisma helps the mission, as does his magnetic wife of 50 years, Toby) who has transcended his limitations as a polio-stricken and wheelchair-bound performer. Early in the film, Itzhak brings up the apt adage, “Judge me by what I do but don’t judge me by what I cannot do.” The judgment has been in for 50 years: Itzhak is one of the greats, and a nice, witty, socially-conscious guy worthy of a documentary or two.


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