Orthodox Pugilists and Others: Highlights from the 27th San Francisco Jewish Film Festival

Thursday, July 19, 2007
Bay Area Reporter

"Making Trouble: Three Generations of Funny Jewish Women With a bow to Woody Allen's classic framing device in Broadway Danny Rose, Rachel Talbot has four contemporary female Jewish comics describe the rigors of being funny and feminine while noshing out at a traditional Jewish dairy restaurant. The four comics -- Judy Gold, Jackie Hoffman, Cory Kahaney and Jessica Kirson — use their own career mishaps and triumphs as a jumping-off point for reviewing a century of struggles by six notable Jewish comic performer/writers: Molly Picon, Fanny Brice, Sophie Tucker, Joan Rivers, Wendy Wasserstein and Gilda Radner. You may wonder how the careers of such a disparate group of entertainers manage to dove-tail so neatly in 85 minutes, but they do. We learn how Brice broke through taboos about women doing raunchy physical humor, how Tucker convinced audiences of her day to tolerate a female performer who not only enjoyed sex but was eager to keep her male lovers in line. Rivers demonstrates just why she has kept a large queer fan base while frequently exasperating more traditional Jewish crowds. The career of the late Radner illustrates why the phrases attractive woman and female comic can be used in the same sentence, and the story of Wasserstein shows why it took until 1989 for a female playwright to win a Tony. The film includes some amazing performance footage and some great food scenes. And yes, somebody does go into the dirty little secrets behind binging and purging. A hilarious and instructive closing-night film. (Castro, 7/26; Roda, 7/28)


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