A Few Words About A few words about... Hester Street

Discussion in 'DVD' started by Robert Harris, Jan 23, 2005.

  1. Robert Harris

    Robert Harris Archivist

    Feb 8, 1999
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    Robert Harris
    I recall a portrait taken of Carol Kane in the mid-1960s, in which she looked like an ethereal dark-eyed waif. I had no idea who she was at the time.

    Just after her appearance as the friendly hooker in The Last Detail, she was selected as a lead for Joan Micklin Silver's Hester Street.

    Produced on a tiny budget by Hollywood standards, and beautifully rendered in a black & white, it looks at times, to be made up of bits and pieces of documentary footage shot on the streets of lower New York on early hand-cranked cameras at the turn of the century.

    On the surface Hester Street gives the appearance that it might be an "ethnic" film. It centers around a handful of Jewish immigrants living on Hester Street at the turn of the century, who are slowly making their way from immigrant to "Yenkee."

    In its most simplistic form, it concerns a young man slowly being assimilated into the social arena of his new country, when his wife and young son arrive from Russia. The wife played by Kane isn't quite ready to give up the old ways. The situation is not helped by the fact that part of her husband's Americanization is that he now has a girlfriend.

    In a larger sense the film is about the American dream and the slow process of Americanization through which immigrants progressed. It is a wonderful snapshot of immigrant America at the turn of the century.

    This was not an easy film to sell. Being partly in Yiddish with occasional English sub-titles almost restricted it from achieving the wide release which it finally received via reviews from New York, Cannes and finally through Ms. Kane's Academy Award nomination for Best Actress.

    This is a tiny and charming film. The exteriors will remind many of Once Upon a Time in America or early scenes from The Godfather.

    The transfer looks to have been created from a 35mm. There is an occasional scratch. The track sounds as if it has also been taken from the optical portion of the the print, with drop outs at ends of reels and a good amount of hiss. The interesting thing is that these tiny defects add to the perfection of the world created by Ms. Silver, many times making it appear as if Hester Street may be a strikingly beautiful early sound artifact of old cinema.

    The film beautifully stands the test of time and is highly recommended.

  2. Vince Maskeeper

    Vince Maskeeper Producer

    Jan 18, 1999
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    I have been hoping for this title on DVD since I saw a VHS copy in a Jewish film class I took years sgo (I being the only gentile in the bunch)...

    And you know, I have to agree- I think this film would benefit from the occassional scratch and a lower-fi soundtrack--- since the story is of a by-gone era and the film tried to emulate that feeling... it's only fitting the DVD technology woulod have a piece of that as well.

  3. Aaron Silverman

    Aaron Silverman Executive Producer

    Jan 22, 1999
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    Aaron Silverman
    Thanks for the pick, Robert. I'm not familiar with this film, but I'll definitely check it out. Never knew that Carol Kane was nominated for an Oscar!

    Hey, a gentile like this, we're happy to see! [​IMG]

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