Fiddlesticks. Although scenarist Stein closely adapted the book of his long-running Broadway smash, FIDDLER ON THE ROOF is simply not up to the original's standard, suffering from excessive length and dim photography. Set in the Ukraine in the early 1900s and based on several tales by
Sholem Aleichem, the overly sentimental story focuses on Tevye (Topol), his long-suffering wife (Crane), and their three dissimilar daughters, Hodel (Marsh), Tzeitel (Harris), and Chava (Small). Each of the girls finds a potential husband, though Tevye disapproves of all three matches. Meanwhile,
the Jewish community faces harassment from the Czar and neighboring Cossacks which culminates in a pogrom, with the survivors left to pick up the pieces of their lives.
The film's strengths lie in the careful detailing of life in pre-Bolshevik Jewish Russia, and the often rough-hewn, open-air quality the film achieves. These same qualities pervade the zestful yet touching performance of Topol, who justly received an Oscar nomination for his fine work. What a pity
that no one else in the cast makes a similar impression. An even greater pity lies in director Jewison's pacing and visual style.
Apart from several lovely shots of twilight vistas, Jewison proves yet again that he does not know what to do with a camera. The rhythm is not so much leisurely as it is slack, and the pogrom sequence is not nearly as powerful as it should be. The most obvious victim of the choppy cutting is the
choreography, all but destroyed by the editor's handiwork. Finally, as handled here, the famous score reveals its major defect: almost every decent song is in the movie's first half. What could have been a brilliant film experience, expanding on the stage version as only film can, ends up instead
as a series of wonderful bits and pieces.
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