Fiddler On The Roof Norman Jewison

Fiddler On The Roof, the widely beloved 1971 film adaptation of the Broadway musical, is now available as a lavish two-disc collector’s edition DVD. The movie recounts the last days of a Jewish village in 1910 Ukraine, before a Czarist edict forces the inhabitants into exile. The hero presiding over the breakdown of tradition is, famously, Tevye the milkman (played boldly and energetically by Topol). The dialogues he conducts with God while experiencing the changes around him — notably the betrothal of his three daughters — are the heart of the film. As passionate and earnest as the film is, it today seems doubly poignant, as it stands as a product of the last popular heyday of movie musicals. Fiddler mostly avoids the pitfalls of this kind of entertainment, however, being neither as treacly as The Sound Of Music nor as pretentious as West Side Story. The orchestrations by John Williams occasionally sound overblown and not all the numbers fly. Yet the ensemble acting is robust while generally avoiding pushiness, many of the songs are fine and there are some truly outstanding choreographic moments. By the time you reach the gracefully understated finale, you may be surprised by how emotionally powerful it is. Fiddler exemplifies the now-antiquated idea of the musical as uplifting family entertainment, soon to be eclipsed by 1972’s Cabaret, which, with its brittle, inside showbiz sensibility, is a clear forerunner of the belated minor comeback of movie musicals represented by the likes of Chicago and Dreamgirls. While Cabaret is undoubtedly the greater film, Fiddler finally earns its classic status. The wealth of extras on the DVD is befitting the movie’s stature. The second disc is crammed with featurettes on the songs, the production design and so on, with trailers and storyboards augmenting the package. The real prize is a vintage NFB documentary, Norman Jewison, Filmmaker, with fascinating "behind the scenes” footage showing an irritated Jewison yelling on set, remarking that Steve McQueen is the most difficult actor he’s worked with, etc. The level of candidness is remarkable and is unheard of today. They don’t make ’em like this anymore. (Fox)