Esther Kahn (2000)
Average Rating: 5.5/10
Reviews Counted: 24
Fresh: 12 | Rotten: 12
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Average Rating: 4.2/10
Critic Reviews: 8
Fresh: 2 | Rotten: 6
No consensus yet.
Average Rating: 3.5/5
User Ratings: 677
The English-language debut of French director Arnaud Desplechin, Esther Kahn charts the ascension of a lower-class Jewish girl from a turn-of-the-century London ghetto to one of the stage's leading actresses. Esther (Summer Phoenix) feels set apart from her large, raucous family, who are all employed in the garment business. Her life is changed when she attends a Yiddish theatre performance, and she is suddenly determined to become an actress. After joining a small theatre company, she becomes
Mar 1, 2001 Limited
Dec 3, 2002
Le Studio Canal Plus
The narrator and the other characters try to convince us that acting transfigures Esther, but she's never seen speaking on stage; one feels cheated, and Esther seems to remain an unchanged dullard.
What makes Esther Kahn so demanding is that it progresses in such a low-key manner that it risks monotony. But it's worth the concentration.
Ms. Phoenix is completely lacking in charm and charisma, and is unable to project either Esther's initial anomie or her eventual awakening.
It's a lot to ask people to sit still for two hours and change watching such a character, especially when rendered in as flat and impassive a manner as Phoenix's.
The French director has turned out nearly 21/2 hours of unfocused, excruciatingly tedious cinema that, half an hour in, starts making water torture seem appealing.
The problem is that rather than dramatizing this premise, Mr. Desplechin is content to state it.
Attempting to determine whether the offstage trauma that she's undergoing is genuine or an extreme form of method acting becomes the film's dramatic crux, and it's more than enough to hold the viewer's attention
The biggest problem I have (other than the very sluggish pace) is we never really see her Esther blossom as an actress, even though her talent is supposed to be growing.
An ambitious, serious film that manages to do virtually everything wrong; sitting through it is something akin to an act of cinematic penance.
Like its title character, Esther Kahn is unusual but unfortunately also irritating.
if you are an actor who can relate to the search for inner peace by dramatically depicting the lives of others onstage, then Esther's story is a compelling quest for truth.
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