Testing the limits by Anne-Katrin Titze

Ferne Pearlstein: "Renee [Firestone] and Steven Spielberg became very close." Photo: Anne-Katrin Titze

A highlight of the Tribeca Film Festival, Ferne Pearlstein's stunning The Last Laugh has Mel Brooks, Carl Reiner, Sarah Silverman, Robert Clary, Rob Reiner, Harry Shearer, Jeffrey Ross, Alan Zweibel, Gilbert Gottfried, Judy Gold, Larry Charles, David Steinberg, Susie Essman, Lisa Lampanelli and Hanala Sagal reflect on questions of free speech, taboos and time limits. Holocaust survivor Renee Firestone is the film's responsive centre.

Jerry Lewis's The Day The Clown Cried, James Moll's The Last Days and Paul Provenza's The Aristocrats open up the discussion and Brooks's comment on Roberto Benigni's Life Is Beautiful leads me to Son Of Saul star Géza Röhrig's response to Quentin Tarantino's Inglourious Basterds in my conversation with Ferne and her co-writer/co-producer Robert Edwards.

Mel Brooks who never included a swastika in his material until The Producers, makes an important distinction between jokes about Nazis and jokes about the Holocaust....
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