We talk alot about the hot new films that we like and if you are like my group of friends, the films that we absolutely despise. However, one group of films that we rarely talk about are those that exist in a dim and distant warm spot from our childhood. For me, the one that stands out in this nature is Fiddler on the Roof - the story of everyday Orthodox Jewish folk just before the Russian Revolution. Its a musical and I know the words to just about every song. Why? Well, when I was a kid, we only had six records in the house - Dougal and the Blue Cat, The Best of ABBA, the Best of Shirley Bassey, 'Please Please Me' by the Beatles and the soundtracks to South Pacific and Fiddler on the Roof. Strangely, I am word perfect on South Pacific as well...
Anyway, I had the chance to watch Fiddler on the Roof again recently thanks to late night ITV3 and the wonders of Sky+ and it was still as good today as it was when I was a kid. From a modern point of view I think that the embattled father, Tevye, is a latter day version of Homer Simpson and I can recognise a lot of the strains put on him by his need to maintain order in the face of his love for his daughters in modern parenting too. Of course, I just do that with less singing!
Its the singing that does it for me. I love the songs in this film more than any other musical. They have a wonderful playfulness to them and most of all, many of them are sung in a pitch that allows men to sing along to them without sounding too bad. Awesome. Stuff Mamma Mia - there should be Men Only Sing-a-Long versions of Fiddler on the Roof .... well, at least until it all goes sad and pear-shaped at the end. Yes, thats the kicker in Fiddler. It isn't like virtually every musical of the time where everyone is happy and the world is a wonderful place. The entire village is moved on by the Czarist authorities, demolishing their community, one daughter 'escapes' to Kracow (!), one lives with her dissident husband in his gulag in Siberia and the other is disowned for marrying outside the faith. And yet, there is still a message of hope right at the end, as the Fiddler follows Tevye to America and you realise that it represents the traditions and spirit that are escaping to survive what is to come in Russia and out of Germany.
Its a fucking fantastic film and I recommend everyone to see it.