3:00 PM, 13th May, 2007
A case could be made that this was the last English-language musical ever made that wasnt a self-conscious (and unsuccessful) revival of a dead genre (at least until Chicago in 2002; I don't know whether that film counts). And it's an odd fish. It's simply the story of a family in a poor, largely Jewish village in pre-revolutionary Russia; large enough (in length, scope and ambition) to be worth wallowing in (yes, we are treating it as a double feature, and we do plan to include an interval), with tunes you won't be able to get rid of (although I'm pretty much compelled to: for reasons I won't go into here, my wife has the unique ability to tell, of any four consecutive notes, if they form part of any song from Fiddler on the Roof; and if they do, she'll protest at a painfully high pitch). In its Broadway version there was, I gather, more Yiddish whimsy than some people could take (had these been poor Irish folk, for instance, there would have been leprechauns); but director Norman Jewison managed to tone that down, and make the setting as realistic and grounded as it could possibly be without making the songs appear to come from nowhere. In any event the sentiment behind the film is real enough.Don't ask me to explain what the title means, though. This goes on my list of films with titles that only appear to make sense because they're also a line of dialogue. The others are mainly James Bond films.'