Like Sholem Aleichem, on whose Motl Peysi: The Cantor's Son and The Enchanted Tailor stories Laughter Through Tears is based, director Gricher-Cherikover leavens pathos with humor in his earthy portrait of prerevolutionary shtetl life. Motl's father dies, leaving him to survive on his own in a changing world while the tailor Shimen-Elye buys a she-goat which mysteriously changes gender each time its new owner stops at the inn between Kozodoyevka, where he purchased the creature, and Zlodyevke, where he lives.
In accord with then-official Soviet policies against antisemitism (which were always as odds with prevailing popular sentiments), Gricher-Cherikover emphasizes the poverty and repression of Jews under Czarist rule. He capitalizes on the skills of the Moscow Art Theater's actors through close attention to facial expression and gesture, and particularly of child actor Moshele Silberman.
aka Through Tears
USSR, 1928, 92 minutes, B&W
Silent with new English intertitles
Directed by Grigori Gritcher-Cherikover
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