Tuesday The Rabbi Made Porn
08/21/12
Special To The Jewish Week
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A rabbi and a pornographer walk into a coffee shop. Insert your own crude punch line here.

That’s essentially the plot of “Your Good Friend,” a feature film/mockumentary directed by Matthew Jacobs. The film, which is still on the festival circuit and looking for a distributor, stars and is co-written by Rabbi Lawrence Kushner, a prominent Reform leader and author of over a dozen books on mysticism including the novel, “Kabbalah: a Love Story.”

The unlikely turn to acting for Rabbi Kushner, who served as the pulpit rabbi in Massachusetts for 28 years and is now a visiting scholar at Congregation Emanu-El of San Francisco, is almost as unlikely as the idea he and the pornographer come up with during the film.

Jacobs, whose past work includes a writing credit for Disney’s “The Emperor’s New Groove” and several BBC films, plays Jules Epstein, a former pornographer whose career has hit a rough patch. Rabbi Kushner plays Zander Lustig, a sad, former congregational rabbi who moves back to San Francisco to visit the apartment he shared with his recently deceased wife. The problem: the apartment is occupied by Epstein. The two characters meet in a coffee shop, and the plot moves quickly from there. Lustig wants Epstein’s apartment, but Epstein is too poor to move back to London. The two come up with a radical fundraising idea: clergy-approved erotica, or by another name kosher porn.

The film is a mockumentary in the lightest sense; it’s loosely based on Jacobs and Rabbi Kushner’s real-life friendship. The two met in the same coffee shop that’s featured in the film, the Chameleon, located in the Russian Heights neighborhood of San Francisco. Both spend a good deal of time writing there. During one long bout of writer’s block the two began discussing the regulars in the café and thought it would be fun to make a sitcom about the café; “Your Good Friend” was the eventual result.

“We didn’t have to do much work on my character and Matthew joked in another life he’d be a pornographer,” said Rabbi Kushner.

The script itself was largely ad-libbed.

Shot over a week in 2012 on a shoestring budget, the completed film came in under $25,000, with funds from Rockbridge Productions. The crew guerilla-filmed quickly and quietly around San Francisco to avoid dealing with permits.

Admittedly, their idea for kosher porn isn’t fully, ahem, fleshed out though essentially it involves online avatars role-playing sexual fantasies. (Asked about bringing their idea to the real world, Rabbi Kushner said he wouldn’t be the one to do it.)

“I had to find some way that pornography was tolerable for helping people to restore the intimacy in their married lives,” Rabbi Kushner said. “We wove in what I know about mysticism and ecstasy — it’s no accident that one of the great metaphors of a mystic union is an erotic image, of two becoming one.”

In the film’s case, un-erotic as it is, the two becoming one are Zander and Epstein who develop an unlikely friendship as they both attempt to hold on to some part of their past. The eventual (ahem) climax and betrayal in the film is handled elegantly without melodrama.

“What we try to communicate is you could be friends with someone preposterously unlike you, and with a little bit of luck and help you might help that person and be changed by that person,” Rabbi Kushner said.

In the low-budget cinema a rabbi and a pornographer can walk into a coffee shop and come out with something moving.

 

Last Update:

08/22/2012 - 18:07

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I seriously want to see this film. I've seen a couple clips, and they were pretty funny.

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