FIDDLER ON THE ROOF: COLLECTOR'S EDITION
Review by Michael Jacobson
Topol, Norma Crane, Leonard Frey, Molly Picon, Paul Mann
Director: Norman Jewison
Audio: Dolby Digital 5.1
Video: Anamorphic Widescreen 2.35:1
Features: See Review
Length: 179 Minutes
Release Date: January 23, 2007
is the world’s curse.”
the Lord smite me with it! And may
I never recover!”
1971, few could argue that the genre of the movie musical was on life support,
waiting for some proverbial doctor to pull the plug. The glorious era of the 1950s that gave us such great
pictures as Singin’ in the Rain, An American in Paris and Gigi and
the 1960s that brought West Side Story, Funny Girl and The Sound of
Music to the screen was becoming something archaic.
As popular tastes changed, as moods and atmospheres in America were
darkening and becoming more cynical, and as the very look and style of motion
pictures was taking a turn, this once unique and successful art form was getting
on the Roof, in
my estimation, marks one of the genre’s last hurrahs, and while it remains a
popular film with much good to say about it, one could also be critical and
point out that some of its problems were indicative of why the musical was
ceasing to be. It was a very
simple, very charming story stretched out to far too great a length, its bag of
songs was mixed at best, it lacked standout dance numbers, and it didn’t have
the look of preceding films because it lacked the beautiful, bright, fantastic
look of Technicolor. For me, Fiddler
just looks too real to be escapist entertainment, which was the primary
appeal of the movie musical.
features the delightful Topol as Tevye, a Russian Jew who lives in the small,
self contained village of Anatevka with his family and neighbors.
He works hard, loves his wife and five daughters with all his heart, has
strong faith even though he misquotes the “Good Book” with regularity, and
believes in his established way of life. His
signature song is “Tradition”, a song that becomes a point of both humorous
and poignant irony, as one of the themes of the film is how tradition doesn’t
survive with changing attitudes, ideas, and political climates.
by one, Tevye must accept that traditions are coming to an end as each of his
eldest three daughters prepares to marry. The
first does so out of love, instead of under the guidance of the town matchmaker.
The second marries initially against her father’s will, to a
politically active man who may only have prison to look forward to in his
future. The third is the most painful, as she breaks the most
cherished tradition of all, marrying within one’s own faith.
it’s not just his family that Tevye has to deal with. The time of the story is pre-revolutionary Russia, where the
Tsars wield absolute power, and the Cossacks carry out their will with robotic
abandon. The Jews are becoming less
and less welcome in their own homeland, and the time will eventually come where
ideologies come to a head, and Tevye and family will be unable to cling to their
beloved traditions any longer.
story is good, but seems a bit deliberately paced. I’m no editor, but as I watched the film, I detected many
places where an economical trim could have happened, or where the rhythm could
have been picked up just a bit, and the daunting 3 hour running time could have
been made more palatable without sacrificing any of the film’s heart and
message. The characters are all
winning…they are mostly two-dimensional, but still effectively charming.
The songs range from the memorable tunes like “Matchmaker,
Matchmaker”, “If I Were A Rich Man” and “Sunrise, Sunset” to the less
melodic and forgettable ones like “To Life” and “Anatevka”.
The score is nicely punctuated, however, by John Williams’ tasteful
orchestrations and Isaac Stern’s haunting, masterful violin solos.
Jewison was obviously attracted to the piece because of its political
statements, as he is famed as a director for pictures that have something to say
about injustices and intolerances. He
brings the messages out of the material with a minimum of subtlety…none can
argue with their potency, but some could argue that the picture could have, and
should have, been a lot more fun in the process.
Take The Sound of Music, which radiates good feeling while
delivering an ultimate message with a punch.
the fault may not lay entirely with Jewison.
As mentioned, with the dawn of a new decade, the movie musical was on its
last legs. Because of its
inevitable and unfortunate timing, Fiddler must either be considered the
last of the truly great musicals, or the film that marked the beginning of the
end for an art form..
anamorphic transfer would be a terrific one, if only it had been a little
cleaner on the surface. Colors are
natural looking and beautifully rendered from start to finish, images are always
sharp and crisply conveyed, and there is no evidence of grain, enhancement, or
other artifacts of compression to mar the viewing experience.
What’s troublesome is the constant, tiny specks and bits of debris that
run across the film from beginning to end.
They’re the only thing that signify the movie’s age.
Overall, fans should be quite satisfied, but for the DVD to look so good
except for some dirt on the surface of the print is a slight letdown.
5.1 soundtrack is extremely dynamic. The
music provides the audio with all of its punch, and it sounds great here, with
the rear channels really only used to open up the orchestrations a little bit.
When it gets loud, it gets really loud, but it never distorts or
loses clarity. High marks.
There are some good features on this Special Edition disc, starting with a commentary track by Norman Jewison and Topol (recorded separately). Jewison’s talk is more scene specific, while Topol speaks from the cuff as his memory opens up. It’s a fairly good listen, despite some occasional pauses.
The second disc contains a 50 minute or so documentary on Jewison, filmed during the
making of Fiddler, that’s an interesting little piece,
There is a deleted song, “Any Day Now”, a full color version of
“Tevye’s Dream”, original stories from author Sholom Aleichem with
historical background read by Jewison, storyboards, and trailers.