On the small screen

The legacy of Arik Einstein in song and on film.

November 20, 2014 10:02
3 minute read.
Arik Einstein

The legacy of Arik Einstein in song and on film.. (photo credit: PR)

It’s hard to believe that it’s been a year since Arik Einstein, the quintessentially Israeli singer, died suddenly at the age of 74. This iconic entertainer, whose charismatic, playful persona appealed to adults and children alike, created a kind of national soundtrack of songs which epitomized their era but were also timeless. Among them were “Yehezkel” (which has been called the first Israeli rock song); “Me and You”; “So Good You’ve Come Home” (which was associated with the campaign to obtain soldier Gilad Schalit’s release from Hamas captivity); “Drive Slow”; “What Do the Deer Do?” and many others.

Whether he sang the work of one of Israel’s leading songwriters or a song he wrote himself, whatever he performed became an Arik Einstein song.

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Both Channel 1 and the Israeli Cinema Channel on YES are featuring tributes to Einstein this week, so this is a great opportunity to see some classic Israeli films, as well as documentaries about Einstein.

On November 25 at 9 p.m., Channel 1 will broadcast a program called “Filled with Love,” hosted by Uri Levy. It will feature clips and reminiscences about Einstein from his friends and colleagues.

This will be followed at 10 p.m.

by a second tribute program that which will feature rare archival footage from his appearances on IBA programs, as well as interviews with singers who worked with him, among them Josie Katz and Dori Ben-Ze’ev.

Although best known as a singer, Einstein appeared in nine films, among them some of the bestloved classics of the 1960s and ‘70s. On the YES Israeli Cinema Channel, a weekend of programming spotlighting Einstein starts at 5 p.m. on November 21 with Nini, Einstein’s 1962 debut film. This rarely shown film features Einstein in a serious role as a young Israeli man who falls in love with a Christian woman from Jaffa.

Nini will be followed at 6:50 p.m.

by Sallah Shabati, the 1964 satirical comedy by Ephraim Kishon about the patriarch of a Yemenite family played by Chaim Topol who emigrates to Israel. Einstein plays a young kibbutznik who lives near the transit camp where Sallah’s family lives, and he romances their daughter, played by Geula Nuni, who passed away just last week.

At 8:40 p.m. (and on November 22 at 2:40 p.m.), you can see the Shablul, the 1970 collection of songs and TV sketches featuring Einstein and a group of other performers, a kind of Saturday Night Live for its time. Einstein performs a number of wonderful songs, among them “What Do You Do When You Wake Up in the Morning?” It also features some funny skits, both with Einstein and without, including the one in which then-comedian, now ultra- Orthodox rabbi Uri Zohar played a Yiddish-speaking homosexual karate instructor. There is also a bizarre scene in which hipster Einstein and his wife go before a rabbinical court and get a divorce, which uses the absurdity of the ceremony to comic effect.

At 10 p.m. (and on November 22 at 4 p.m.), you can see Peeping Toms, which many consider Einstein’s best film. Einstein got a co-writer credit with his friend Uri Zohar, who directed this loosely plotted comedy about a Tel Aviv beach bum (Zohar) and his buddy, a nightclub singer (Einstein).

This will be followed by Big Eyes (1974) at 11:30 p.m. and on November 22 at 5:30 p.m. Zohar directed and starred in this film about a self-centered, duplicitous basketball coach, and Einstein played a friend of his.

In real life, Zohar and Einstein didn’t stay friends after Zohar and his family became haredi and Einstein’s wife and daughters followed suit. Einstein’s daughters married two of Zohar’s sons, and Zohar and Einstein became unlikely in-laws.

The Bollywood Channel on YES can brighten a dull day, and some of us have a bit of an addiction to those cheerfully hammy Bollywood flicks. Now, on November 30, a new series, described as docureality, is coming up on YES, in which a group of Israeli entertainers goes to India to try to make it in Bollywood. It’s a celebration of the centennial of Bollywood.

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