Some documentaries about individuals try to carve out three-act narratives that reveal deep truths about their subjects, while others are more content to hang out with them. Though Alison Chernick’s Itzhak does touch on some deep truths about Itzhak Perlman, and there’s some 101 about the Israeli-born New Yorker via archival footage such as his appearance on The Ed Sullivan Show in 1958 or the 1978 documentary Virtuoso Violinist, the picture mostly revels in getting to spend time with Perlman and his wife of 50 years, Toby.
The film occasionally touches upon dark subjects — we’re told so many Jewish people played the violin during the Holocaust because was it was the easiest instrument to pick up and run away with — but Itzhak’s primary modality is joy. Perlman can even be a straight-up goofball, as when he dresses up as a clown named Ding Dong for the students at his Perlman Music Program. Some critics have referred to Perlman’s sense of humor as “dad jokes” in a pejorative sense, but you wish you were lucky enough to have him as your dad. With all due respect to the documentary Supermensch about celebrity agent Shep Gordon, if anyone deserves to be called by that name, Itzhak proves beyond a shadow of a doubt that it is in fact Itzhak.
Opens Friday at the Opera Plaza Cinema.