Klezmer refers to both practitioner and a style of festive Jewish band music, rooted in pre-war Eastern Europe. The Last Klezmer is a portrait of a remarkable man: 69-year-old Leopold Kozlowski of Krakow, the last active klezmer trained in the original pre-war tradition. Kozlowski is no relic but a robust, rotund, Falstaffian character, brimming with energy and enthusiasm. The filmmakers accompany Kozlowski on a nervous and emotional visit (his first in fifty years) to the village where he was raised in a close-knit family of musicians, to the nearby sites where his family was murdered, and to the forests where he fought with partisan units. After the war Kozlowski remained in Poland, composing, conducting, and performing, continually finding new outlets for his prodigious talents whenever discrimination closed off old ones. Today he teaches klezmer to avid young Poles (whose curiosity about Jewish culture was ironically aroused by Party anti-Semitism) and conducts at the still proper Yiddish State Theatre. We realize that music for Kozlowski is not just a way of life but a way of staying alove, enabling him to survive both concentration camps (a key scene in Schindler's List was modelled after his experiences) and Communist purges. Kozlowski becomes and unforced symbol of indestructible spirit of Jewish culture, which continues to thrive, illogically and inspirationally, even in the virtually Jewless Poland. The Last Klezmer is a survivor's tale, filled with laughter and tears, as infectious and unabashedly emotional as the musical tradition it celebrates.
84 min., Unrated
In English, Polish, Yiddish, and Russian with English Subtitles
Dir. of Photography
MICHAEL P. LUSTIG