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Hester Street Movie Review

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When Hester Street was first released, major stardom was predicted for its star, Carol Kane, and a glorious future as a world-class director awaited Joan Micklin Silver…I'll be back after I beat up a few pillows to spare everyone the institutional sexism rant. This beautiful film knocked everyone sideways in the mid-'70s. Carol Kane's look was so right for this period film, like she'd just stepped out of a daguerrotype. As it turns out, Kane's look is right for every time. She can be a flapper, a babysitter, a hippie, a mom…but she's been typed, somehow, as a wild child, so we see her in many marginal roles in many marginal films where she steals everything in her scattered sequences that isn't nailed down and then drifts out of the plot. Like a lovely wraith, we can't forget her. Micklin, who went on to make several more fine films (but not enough for this longtime admirer), carefully observes the dilemma faced by every immigrant who comes to America. As a nation of immigrants, do we reject the values of the country we left behind and embrace our adopted country on its own terms, or do we try preserve our unique identity and share it with those who come after us? Steven Keats, who plays Kane's husband, has already made his choice. By pursuing the flirtatious Dorrie Kavanaugh, he rejects both his bride and her Old World customs. (Sadly, both Keats and Kavanaugh died relatively young in real life. He committed suicide in 1994 at the age of 49 and she died at 38 in 1983, after switching from acting to a career as an opera singer.)

1975 92m/B Carol Kane, Doris Roberts, Steven Keats, Mel Howard, Dorrie Kavanaugh, Stephen Strimpell; D: Joan Micklin Silver; W: Joan Micklin Silver; C:Kenneth Van Sickle; M: William Bolcom. Nominations: Academy Awards ‘75: Best Actress (Kane). VHS

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