Sunday, April 17, 2016

Fiddler on the Roof (1971)

You see, there are these Jews in Russia. You know, before the revolution. And sometimes they fiddle on rooftops. And other stuff happens too.

In reality, Fiddler on the Roof is about tradition in the face of changing times. Changing social customs, changing political climate, and even a coming revolution. Through it all, through each crisis, the people make choices and move on.

Fiddler is another film I knew, but did not know. I knew or knew of the songs, was familiar with the setting, but didn't know anything about the story. Tevye is "blessed" with five daughters and a hard life. The older daughters are reaching marrying age and he finds they are making nontraditional choices starting with rejecting the matchmaker's selection. The movie does not follow the standard Hollywood story arc. Life goes on. No great resolution.

Norman Jewison was hired to direct because the studio thought he was Jewish (he's not). Things worked out pretty well. Jewison chose Topol from the London production over the more flamboyant Zero Mostel from Broadway. Zero held a grudge. Norma Crane was diagnosed with breast cancer before production, and told no one except Jewison and Topol. She would die in two years. Rosalind Harris, playing daughter Tzeitel, would eventually take over Crane's role on stage as Tevye/Topol's wife. That's not creepy at all.

A good indicator of a movie's impact is how long it sticks with me. At the time of this writing it has been a few weeks since I watched it, and I find my thoughts return to it. Little bits of dialog, the songs, and, oh my god, the dream sequence, stay on my mind. This is masterful storytelling, wonderful acting, and and an all-around treat. AMRU 4.5.
Perchik: Money is the world's curse.
Tevye: May the Lord smite me with it. And may I never recover.

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