The ge­nius of Jerry ex­plored

Western Suburbs Weekly - - Stage - Ju­lian Wright

AMER­I­CANS saw a buf­foon, but the French saw an artist.

For decades Jerry Lewis had peo­ple dou­bled over in fits of laugh­ter, as he tripped, stum­bled, pulled faces and put on voices.

Peo­ple from his own coun­try dis­missed his rou­tine as hol­low the­atrics, but those on the other side of the At­lantic Ocean saw some­thing much deeper.

They paid par­tic­u­lar at­ten­tion when Lewis went be­hind the cam­era, cre­at­ing his own films.

Now Lewis’ ca­reer as a per­former and hu­man­i­tar­ian is ex­plored in the doc­u­men­tary Jerry Lewis: The Man Be­hind the Clown, co-pro­duced by Aus­tralian Stephan Wellink.

Wellink, who grew up watch­ing the com­edy leg­end, said the con­trast­ing views on the per­former were fas­ci­nat­ing.

“We wanted to look be­hind the man and why the French love him so much and why he is not held in the same es­teem in his own coun­try,” he said.

“They (Amer­i­cans) saw him as a clown; it is a telling point in the doc­u­men­tary when it is said Amer­i­cans were un­com­fort­able be­cause he held a mir­ror up to them, they thought they were more so­phis­ti­cated than that.

“(But) he was an au­teur; he had con­trol on all as­pects of his films like Charlie Chap­lin and Buster Keaton.”

The in­ter­na­tional crew be­hind the doc­u­men­tary brought to­gether in­ter­vie­wees rang­ing from Aus­tralian co­me­dian Shaun Mi­callef to Hol­ly­wood di­rec­tor Martin Scors­ese to bring his story to new gen­er­a­tions.

“Our French crew in­ter­viewed Jerry Lewis with an Aus­tralian cam­era­man but then Scors­ese was in­ter­viewed re­motely, but I think he ba­si­cally di­rected him­self,” Wellink said.

“Co-or­di­nat­ing these things are never easy, they are all busy peo­ple but you men­tion Lewis and they all made time.

“Lewis is right up there amongst the most in­flu­en­tial co­me­di­ans, it is a shame that Amer­ica sees him as a buf­foon, he is an artist.

“Lewis en­ter­tained peo­ple for 70 years; it is amaz­ing that when you fade from the pub­lic eye that peo­ple for­get.”

Jerry Lewis: The Man Be­hind the Clown screens as part of the Jewish In­ter­na­tional Film Fes­ti­val at Greater Union Mor­ley from Oc­to­ber 26 – Novem­ber 6.

Jerry Lewis: Ge­nius or bu­foon? De­pends on who you ask.

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