Fiddler on the Roof [1971]

This rousing musical, based on the stories of Shalom Aleichem, takes place in pre-revolutionary Russia and centers on the life of Tevye (Topol), a milkman who is trying to keep his family's traditions in place while marrying off his three older daughters. Yet, times are changing and the daughters want to make their own matches, breaking free of many of the constricting customs required of them by Judaism. In the background of these events, Russia is on the brink of revolution and Jews are feeling increasingly unwelcome in their villages. Tevye--who expresses his desire for sameness in the opening number, "Tradition"--is trying to keep everyone, and everything, together. The movie is strongly allegorical--Tevye represents the common man--but it does it dexterously, and the resulting film is a stunning work of art. The music is excellent (it won Oscars for the scoring and the sound), with plenty of familiar songs such as "Sunrise, Sunset" and "If I Were a Rich Man," which you'll be humming long after the movie is over. Isaac Stern's violin--he provides the music for the fiddler on the roof--is hauntingly beautiful. And despite the serious subject matter, the film is quite comedic in parts; it also well deserves the Oscar it won for cinematography. --Jenny Brown

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