Friday, July 3, 2015

Celebrate the holiday the way they used to: Laskow/Rosenberg's WELCOME TO KUTSHER'S

"The last Catskills resort" is the subtitle of WELCOME TO KUTSHER'S -- the new film by Caroline Laskow & Ian Rosenberg (pictured below, left and right) -- that should prove a walk down memory lane for Jews of a certain age in, oh, so many ways. It's also a surprising documentary. The best-known and most special of those Catskills resorts began as a farming endeavor? Who knew? TrustMovies certainly didn't.

Grossinger's may have been larger and more popular, but after viewing this sweet, charming and sad little doc, I'm inclined to think that Kutsher's was the one to beat. Ms Laskow and Mr. Rosenberg take a different route than that of other Catskills docs I've seen that focus more on celebrities who performed (and often first worked as waiters or bus boys) at the hotel. Ours is increasingly a celebrity culture, and from the looks of this film, Kutsher's was almost the opposite.

If a celebrity happened along -- or would become one after being employed by the resort, as did basketball star Wilt Chamberlain, shown above -- this was due more to the Kutsher family's love of sports and skills and humanity than of mere celebrity or fame.  (Contrast what we see here of Helen Kutsher with what we've seen and know of another "hotel" woman, Leona Helmsley, and the difference will be immediately apparent.)

The resort made its name via its food (both the types and the lavish amounts) and its activities (including many sports, arts and entertainment). Beyond all these, though, seems to have been the personal touch that the Kutsher family had for both its customers and employees.  The specifics we get from everyone from waiters to the ice skating instructor (Celia Duffy, below) to an Asian-American art teacher are intelligent, thoughtful and moving.

The secret may well have been that all the folk connected with Kutsher's simply loved what they were doing. And this showed. All of which makes what eventually happens to the famed resort all the more wasteful and sad.  (You can see this on one of the DVD extras; we skipped it, not wanting to leave on a "downer.")

Along the way, you'll travel from the "farm" beginnings through the period of Dirty Dancing all the way to a youth convention at the resort during its latter days. The movie ends with some very good laughs from comedian Freddie Roman (shown below), who acts as a kind of emcee and guide to our experience here. He's a funny man -- and a fine entryway into the history of what became a century-long American tradition, resort-wise.

Welcome to Kutsher's -- from Menemsha Films and running just 73 minutes -- is available now on DVD and digitally, from most of the usual suspects: iTunes - Amazon Instant - Google Play - Xbox Live - VUDU; and On-Demand via Comcast, TWC, Cox, Bright House, etc.; via  Vubiquity (Verizon, Charter, etc.) and through  ATT and Dish.

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