I love everything about this movie. It's hard to know where to start. First I suppose, it would only be fair to warn the reader that I am quite partial to musicals, so while that could be a bias, I believe that regardless of anyone's stance towards the genre at large, this is still an excellent piece of work. And while the running time may be daunting at nearly three hours, I can almost assure you it won't feel that long.
Nearly everything about Fiddler on the Roof is flawless in my eyes, and it provides just about everything one could ask for in a film. The cinematography is gorgeous and won an Oscar: especially of note are the great use of silhouettes whenever the Fiddler himself appears and during "Chava's Ballet Sequence." The editing just accentuates the power of the images, bombarding the viewer with an exciting fast-paced frenzy of Jewish iconography, in time with the rhythm of the movie's opening sequence "Tradition," or expanding our understanding of the community of Anatevka's pain by affording close-ups of a succession of dispirited unnamed town-folk during the final song "Anatevka."
Aside from purely technical considerations, the combination of the musical numbers and narrative combine to run the gamut of emotions from joy to despair, from loss to hope, ignorance to tolerance, peace to battle, humor to anger, and skepticism to faith. Without going in to too much detail, it is the story of how, over the course of a few tumultuous years Tevye, a humble Jewish milkman and father of five daughters, navigates the social, religious, political, and domestic pressures of his early 20th century Eastern European shtetl (through song and dance!). The score includes classics like the up-tempo introduction "Tradition," the irresistibly catchy "If I were a Rich Man," and the tear-jerking "Sunrise, Sunset" while supported by other less famous but equally moving numbers such as "Sabbath Prayer" or "L'Chaim (To Life)."
The acting must not be forgotten either. Topol, who plays Tevye (and still did on stage up until last year), gives a truly superb and well-rounded performance alternately evoking laughter and tears (and I defy anyone not to be touched by his pain) in a sympathetic and wholly relatable portrayal. The rest of the cast does an outstanding job, especially, I feel I need to note, Paul Mann as the unfortunate Lazar Wolf, whose glaring blue eyes and beard pulling mannerisms are pitch-perfect. It's a crime he wasn't nominated for a supporting actor Oscar. I could go on forever, but unfortunately I don't have that kind of time, in conclusion then, by deftly blending humor, beauty, courage, and heartbreak, Fiddler on the Roof is one movie not to be missed.
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