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A Cantor’s Tale

Directed by Erik Anjou

USA | 95 minutes | 2005

Think of how music fans get passionate about the merits of The Beatles vs. Rolling Stones, Callas vs. Tebaldi, Norah Jones vs. Madonna. Once upon a time, in 20th-century American cities, Jews got that fanatical about cantors. A Cantor’s Tale is a loving tribute to a Golden Age in American Jewish life when chazzanut — the celebrated cantorial art — reached its zenith: when renowned cantors made best-selling recordings and attracted followers who would travel miles to hear their dizzying cantillations spilling from the windows of crowded synagogues. The film’s spine is the journey of the engaging Jack Mendelson, who as the pudgy, streetwise son of a deli owner was influenced by his mother’s passion for chazzanut. Her regular field trips to hear the great cantors of New York seemed almost to predestine Jack and his brother to become cantors themselves. Today Jack is the president of the Cantors Assembly, demonstrating to young cantors-in-training the vocal nuances, unlearnable on the page, that connect them to the great vocal traditions of Eastern European sacred music. Mendelson and director Erik Anjou introduce us to such luminaries as Cantors Alberto Mizrahi, Ben-Zion Miller and Joseph Malovany, while the milieu of 1950s Brooklyn is conjured up vividly by the likes of comedian Jackie Mason and attorney Alan Dershowitz. For their generation it was a greater source of pride that down the block lived a brilliant cantor than the family of World Series pitcher Sandy Koufax.
Director Erik Anjou
Countries of Production USA
Year of Presentation 2005
Premiere Status
Runtime 95 minutes
Principal Cast Alan M. Dershowitz, Jackie Mason
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