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Thursday, September 6, 2012 | return to: news & features, local


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Rabbi buddies up with café friend on film about ‘kosher porn’

by patricia corrigan, j. correspondent

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Rabbi Lawrence Kushner, an expert on Jewish mysticism and spirituality and the visiting scholar for the past decade at Congregation Emanu-El in San Francisco, makes his film debut in “Your Good Friend” — a movie that includes what Kushner calls “kosher porn.”

Well, sort of. “The pornography thing gets people’s attention, but the core of the movie is about two old guys who are unlike one another in every way,” said Kushner, 68. He plays Zander, a widowed rabbi trying to get his old apartment back; the other “old guy,” Jules, is a washed-up pornographer trying to make enough money to move back to London. (See http://www.yourgoodfriendmovie.com.)

“It is not a sexy film, but there are times that are titillating and surprising and fun,” Kushner said.

A still from “Your Good Friend” shows Rabbi Lawrence Kushner’s character  Zander (left) reading Torah as Matthew Jacobs looks on.   photo/courtesy of “Your Good Friend”
A still from “Your Good Friend” shows Rabbi Lawrence Kushner’s character Zander (left) reading Torah as Matthew Jacobs looks on. photo/courtesy of “Your Good Friend”
Kushner co-wrote, co-produced and co-starred with Matthew Jacobs, 56, who also directed and edited the film, shot in San Francisco over seven days in July 2010. Jacobs, who teaches at the Academy of Art University, recently completed post-production work on “Your Good Friend” and is submitting it to festivals hoping it will be picked up by a distributor.

Jacobs admitted the chances of getting into a festival are not good because of the plethora of movies submitted. Also, he said, festival operators are increasingly focused on screening films that will make money. “This movie was an act of love,” he said. “Whether or not we get a distributor, it will be shown in San Francisco, even if I have to rent a cinema.”

The idea for the movie evolved after Kushner and Jacobs met in 2008 at the Chameleon Café, an S.F. coffee shop where both men went to write. Kushner has written 19 books, including “Kabbalah: A Love Story” and “Honey from the Rock.” Jacobs, who makes his living primarily as a screenwriter, is best known for writing the 1996 “Doctor Who” TV movie, based on the British sci-fi television series.

“While writing at the coffee shop, we would both procrastinate and chat, and over time we became good friends,” Kushner said. “During our breaks, we would chuckle about the characters in the coffee shop, like the guy who always wore an ankle-length black leather coat and carried a sword. At first we thought we might have a sitcom, an old guys’ version of ‘Cheers’ only set in a coffee shop, and then we realized we had a movie.”

In “Your Good Friend,” Kushner’s character proposes a clergy-approved pornographic website to help Jacobs’ character earn money. “My fascination with the juxtaposition of sex and religion is what made this movie attractive to me,” Jacobs said. “I am not a follower of religions, but I found myself on the same page with Larry in terms of his perspective on sex within the context of his [religion].”

“In all the world’s mystical traditions, an erotic encounter is a primary metaphor for becoming one with God,” said Kushner. “ In consummation, the two become one, intermingling the mystical and the erotic. As a writer of Kabbalah and mysticism, I know something about that.”

Both men emphasized that the movie is also about friendship and family. “My character comes to see Larry’s character as a father figure, and develops a love for him,” Jacobs said. “Their friendship becomes the foundation for what is essentially a buddy movie.”

Jacobs classifies “Your Good Friend” as a “mocku-docudrama,” which he explains as a faux version of a docudrama, itself a dramatic rendering of a documentary.

Looking back, Kushner is delighted that he took part. “It was an amazing experience — just a gas, a hoot — primarily because Matthew is a gifted director. His theory is, be yourself, find a quirk or two and turn that way up. It was so interesting to lose your ego for the course of the shoot, to be another person.”

Turning serious, Kushner added, “As I prepare for the High Holy Days, I’m thinking that is the primary responsibility of Yom Kippur — to help you realize you could be another person.”


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