A Mighty Wind

From Dec ’06 Spotlight: In the new film For Your Consideration, an intimate period indie called Home for Purim is transformed through buzz and hype into Oscar-contender Home for Thanksgiving. This sounds like ripe territory for Jewish comedy, but alas, the latest mocumentary from the terrific team behind such charmers as Waiting for Guffman and Best in Show left me cold. Of all the films fronted by Christopher Guest and Eugene Levy, my personal favorite is A Mighty Wind from 2003. Bob Balaban leads the ensemble as “Jonathan Steinbloom,” son of folk music promoter Irving Steinbloom. When his father dies at a very ripe old age, Jonathan decides the only fitting memorial is a concert at Manhattan’s Town Hall, so he schemes to bring his father’s greatest discoveries back for one last reunion, to be filmed live by PBS.

A Mighty Wind has everything from hearty belly-laughs to nostalgic tears, with wonderful music that creates its own genre beyond parody. Unlike For Your Consideration, which brings nothing new to its Jewish elements, A Mighty Wind explores both the Jewish roots of the folk music boom (through the persona of Irving Steinbloom) as well as the way Jewish values permeated the counterculture of the 1960s and became mainstream (most evident in Ed Begley Junior’s hilarious character “Lars Olfen,” the PBS producer whose Yiddish-peppered speech is totally natural without a hint of condescension or self-consciousness).

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