Movie Review: Fiddler on the Roof

FiddlerThumbby Brad Nelson
Turn if off! Turn it off!!! I can’t get the song “If I Were a Rich Man” out of my head. Help!

Generally, I’m bored by musicals that launch into a song every five minutes. Just speak the darn words. Don’t try to make a song out of “I’d like to make a sandwich today, hurrah!” But Fiddler on the Roof makes this work. This is no doubt helped along by the charm of Topol, who plays the lead character, and the fact that many of these songs double as an inside look at his thought processes rather than just being a song for a song’s sake. That is, the songs are generally very well integrated into the story rather than an interruption of the story.

And that story is about a man and wife with five daughters (oy veh!) living in a poor Jewish community in pre-revolutionary Russia. In such a community, one’s religion and traditions are as one’s two lungs; they are the breath of life.

Modern man tends to see tradition and religious rules as stifling rather than meaningful. But modern man is an aberration, and if Europe is any example, such an aberration will not be long-lived. We need a sense of identity in order to maintain ourselves and our societies.

Certainly central to Fiddler on the Roof is immersion (as much as one can from a movie) into Jewish culture. That culture is front-and-center and adds much of the spice. It needs to because the plot itself is not overly complicated: Various young men want Tevye’s daughters for marriage. Tevye doesn’t always agree. Rinse and repeat. This happens three times with three different daughters, all with different results. And at the very end, the two youngest daughters (mere girls) are betrothed to a couple boys, almost at random.

As well as the courtship problems, an ominous backdrop is the prejudice and violence that has constantly hounded the Jews throughout time. And even to this day a world turns against Israel as the villain (although it is a peaceful democracy) and sides with Hamas (a hate-filled anti-Semitic terrorist group). Things never change much for the Jews. And in Fiddler on the Roof you see the persecution of Jews roll out of the hills like a storm, like an act of nature that could come crashing down at any time.

It’s interesting to see Paul Michael Glaser (Starsky) play the young idealistic revolutionary. I think the movie would have improved if it had delved more into the politics of that era, but it is content to leave it as an undefined backdrop of inevitable change that is coming. And inevitable and unpredictable change is a central theme to this movie as Tevye, and the Jewish community itself, are blown around like leaves in the wind, no matter how anchored they are in their traditions.

All in all it was a splendid movie with superb cinematography and an Oscar-winning score adaptation by John Williams. But this movie ultimately lives and dies on the character of Tevye. And that character is believable, engaging, and quite charming. This is another classic that lives up to its name. I give it 3.7 unwed daughters out of 5.

. . . if I were a rich man . . . ya ha deedle deedle, bubba bubba deedle deedle dum….all day long I’d biddy biddy bum, if I were a wealthy man . . . • (2634 views)

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Brad Nelson

About Brad Nelson

I like books, nature, politics, old movies, Ronald Reagan (you get sort of a three-fer with that one), and the founding ideals of this country. We are the Shining City on the Hill — or ought to be. However, our land has been poisoned by Utopian aspirations and feel-good bromides. Both have replaced wisdom and facts.

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37 Responses to Movie Review: Fiddler on the Roof

  1. Kurt NY says:

    That song “If I Were a Rich Man” had a couple lyrics I always had trouble with, referring to grand staircases and cackling fowl disturbing the neighbors so that they say there goes a wealthy man. And the affectionate bit about his wife Goldy screaming at the servants day and night just seems to me elitist – if you were rich enough to have servants, shouldn’t you value the worth of their labor and their basic humanity that you would treat them with respect? Is success in life basically commanding other humans such that you do not have to accord them respect?

    • Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

      Kurt, usually *I’m* the guy accused by my friends of over-analyzing stuff. LOL. Glad to see I have some competition.

      I think the song is obviously the far-away dreams of a man who merely amuses himself with the thought of being rich and all that this would entail. He’s describing how it is that rich men of his age live and think, somewhat, I would say, in mild bemusement.

      I don’t see it as him saying this is right or wrong. It’s merely the pleasant imaginings of a man who is poor dreaming what it would be like to be rich. And this is a man who never expects to be rich, so they are just pleasant and whimsical imaginings.

      • Kurt NY says:

        Moi? Over-analyzing? OK. Guilty as charged. Example – you ever see the musical Phantom of the Opera? Well, when my wife and I saw it, the action begins with Christine in her dressing room receiving instruction through the walls from the Phantom, who she thinks is some disembodied Angel of Music (while actually he’s been watching her disrobe etc through a one-way mirror for years). So he’s a pervert and she’s stupid – I could’ve cared less what happened to them.

        And Phantom is romantic? Why, if only I knew back in college that women found being kidnapped by a mutilated murderous madman and being taken into the sewers for a candlelit tryst to be what they really wanted. Well… Clearly I went about it all wrong.

    • Kung Fu Zu says:

      The Russian aristocracy were particularly obnoxious. The musical appears to be taking place in the late 1800’s or early 1900’s, maybe around 1905 as that was the date of the first major try at revolution and it failed.

      There was nothing approaching the middle class.

      As to respect for servants, remember the serfs weren’t released from the land until about 1864.

      History and culture matter.

    • RobL_V2 RobL_V2 says:

      Kurt-

      Tevye was a poor schlep of a man, his view of a ‘rich man’ is combination half ignorance and half fantasy. He thinks 2 chickens in a pot and a house with a staircase is ‘rich’. Likely he’s never even seen an actually rich person but perhaps a less poor merchant in the city. He’s not bitter that there are rich people in the world, neither should you be.

      Let the man have his dreams, that’s all he has and all he needs… well no he doesn’t really even need that, he has his culture, heritage and family and that serves him pretty well but its still nice to dream, even if it doesn’t mesh with reality.

  2. Ed Cottingham says:

    Brad>>Modern man tends to see tradition and religious rules as stifling rather than meaningful. But modern man is an aberration, and if Europe is any example, such an aberration will not be long-lived. We need a sense of identity in order to maintain ourselves and our societies.
    ***
    To me, the song Tradition is the heart and soul of this show. It poses the most serious questions in a witty, ironic way, celebrating “tradition” as the essential mooring points of life and yet obviously being aware of what a ridiculous proposition is being defended: that tradition, itself, is sufficient justification and authority for how to live. There is a gentle sense of the absurdity of life but an acceptance of it.

    I had the cast recording before the movie, which disappointed me. I watched a Youtube performance of Tradition before commenting…as much of it as I could stand. To me, the visuals in general are a great distraction after taking this work into my heart as a purely auditory experience. It is often hard to be objective about well loved music in any form except the form in which it was originally experienced. But whether the whole visual experience is objectively distracting or not, I definitely feel that the performance of Tradition was over-acted and drawn out losing the impact of the ideas. I suspect that many people have the same reaction since the music is so beloved and yet the film was not very successful.

    It happens often with me that when I am engaged in a serious conversation about politics and culture and such, the trump card in my imagination is an outburst of that song. Unfortunately, I don’t embrace as many particular traditions as perhaps I should, but I am really big on the general concept of traditions. (A bit like those communist theorists who love mankind but don’t care so much for men.)

    • Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

      Excellent thoughts regarding the movie and tradition, Ed. I’ve known this song only by the movie. Do you have a youtube link perhaps to another version (the one you prefer) of the song? I’d love to hear it.

      Growing up in middle class America, my family was not big on tradition. The gist of Dennis Prager’s book, “The Last Best Hope,” is that we need to pass on our American traditions. Earlier generations did not do so. They just took America for granted. And those who did not taking America for granted were actively tearing her down in a hissy-fit of juvenile nihilism (and these people are now running the country).

      This is part of the shtick of StubbornThings. We need to dredge up our traditions, dust them off, and come to love them once again. And we can do that by coming to know them.

      One may wonder from time to time if I have gone mad with all these movie reviews. But these kinds of old-style movies are very much an American tradition, although such traditions are new compared to any Jewish tradition, of course.

      And even the tradition of film is being degraded — like everything else — because of the vulgarity and vacuousness of the Left. And much of this is due to other factors, of course. But, to me, there is more to be learned in a John Wayne film about America than in all the cable news shows on TV, including Fox News.

      I didn’t go in thinking that I would like “Fiddler on the Roof.” But I did come away liking it. And tradition is an important element to life. We Americans should look for that sweet spot of enough, but not too much.

  3. Ed Cottingham says:

    Alas, Brad, I cannot locate my own copy of Fiddler from which I was going to push a “preview” mp3 to you via Dropbox. And I couldn’t find anything on Youtube…they have a version from a Broadway revival but, IMO, it suffers from the same faults as the movie. I will — in time — get the CD in hand and will not forget that you would like to hear it.

    Yes, I too had the excessively vanilla, middle American experience (Southern division) with little sense of a wish to preserve anything from the past. In fact, I only knew one of my grand parents, and he was already old and sick. My people remembered the depression too well and were more than eager to embrace the comforts of McLife in the 50s and embrace new “traditions.”

    The encouraging of reviews and comments about older books and movies is a great thing to do. Many of us have a lot to say in those areas but often little or nothing to say about what is current at the local multi-plex and getting all the media buzz at the moment. I have increasingly felt in recent years that exploring shared tastes is one of the most important ways in which we escape the ultimate aloneness of our lives. There used to be an old joke about whether or not you could have a friend who did not like a certain film or director…I think it intended to make fun of moderns who invest so much in their interactions with media. Then it happened to me…an old and great but wavering friendship ultimately cracked up over an inability to share an appreciation of a film. If you are, for example, laughing at and enjoying something and look over and see your friend/partner/lover staring blankly…it really is very alienating. So anybody who doesn’t like films by [name withheld] can’t be my friend! Ditto for too many instances of no conversational interest in music/books/films that really light me up.

    • Kung Fu Zu says:

      “Tradition means giving votes to the most obscure of all classes, our ancestors. It is the democracy of the dead. Tradition refuses to submit to that arrogant oligarchy who merely happen to be walking around.”

      G.K.Chesterton-1908

      • Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

        G.K. The question is, when can’t you count on him for a relevant quote on some subject? 🙂

        • Kung Fu Zu says:

          The man was a veritable gusher of quotes and most of those I have read are very thought provoking. I am sure we will hear more from him soon.

    • CCWriter CCWriter says:

      Welcome to StubbornThings, Ed!

      Your comment will not be deleted.

    • Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

      Then it happened to me…an old and great but wavering friendship ultimately cracked up over an inability to share an appreciation of a film. If you are, for example, laughing at and enjoying something and look over and see your friend/partner/lover staring blankly…it really is very alienating.

      Ed, you know what? You’re alright. Even if you hate Casablanca, I could still have you as a friend. You like talking movies, or at least seem to appreciate them.

      I remember a couple years ago I went to a friend’s Super Bowl party. And he had some other friends there that I had never met before, and they were nice people.

      But they were laughing at all of the really stupid Super Bowl commercials. And I thought, “I couldn’t have them as friends.” I guess if you wrote that up it could be one of the story lines in a Seinfeld episode. You get funny little episodes like that in real life. And I just couldn’t hang out with people who thought those commercials were funny.

      It would be interesting to find out what [name withheld] refers to.

      • Ed Cottingham says:

        Not sure if it was even clear that [name withheld] is a film or filmmaker or studio or something like that. I withheld it, because it is a controversial taste and even though it was the last straw in a friendship, it is definitely not a stand-alone prerequisite to friendship. If I enjoyed sharing some other music, films, video and we just missed on [name withheld], I could easily let it go. But truly [name withheld] is particularly important to me and after miss, miss, miss, and then “nah, that sucks,” a point comes where I decide that shared tastes are not sufficient to sustain friendship. But I don’t want to get to know people with a chip on my shoulder requiring that they must appreciate specific things.

  4. RobL_V2 RobL_V2 says:

    Great review Brad.

    Believe it or not I was actually taken to this movie as a kid, dint really jell so much with me a the time but as an adult I love the movie. As an adult I can appreciate the anguish of the hard working milkman providing all for his family only to watch his three daughter make increasingly worse choices in marriage (from his perspective). The DVD version is loaded with extras, really a fine package.

    This is great entertainment form the opening sunrise and transition down a muddy road to dusty barn is one of the best movie openings on film. From the get go you are transported to another country, continent, another world… over 100 years ago. And without any special effects or cheap editing gimmicks or ADHAD ‘action’ your attention is held throughout. Good old fashioned story telling!
    Fiddler as far as I know is the only film adaptation of Shalom Alechem’s written/short stories of life on the Pale in turn of the century Tsarist Russia.

    ‘Rabbi is their a blessing for the Tsar?’

    “Sure there is a blessing for everything… my the lord bless the Tsar and keep him very far from us…”

    Interestingly the original broadway version very popular in Japan. Japanese know not much about Judaism but plenty about hard work, family and tradition. It seemed to hit home with a post war Japanese generation that built a new Japan out of the ashes and were faced with their children not only failing to appreciating the sacrifice they made during the war and after but what it took to rebuild. On top of that it seemed the new modern generation cared not for the traditions of Japan which had lasted over a 1000 years. All these mixed emotions captured beautifully and optimistically seemed to offer the Japanese solace and encouragement going forward.

    This movie is most highly recommended, not only has it aged well, exceedingly well and it has helped me age I think exceeding well too.

    • Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

      Thanks, Rob.

      And you’re so right about that opening scene, although I’ve seen the movie only once and that was last year. But, yes, there was skill involve in this and no ADHD.

      Good quote from the movie. And I had no idea that this was a hit in Japan. I would never have figured it.

    • Kung Fu Zu says:

      I wonder how much of the Japanese interest in the musical was about relating to the Jews, hard work and tradition, etc. Perhaps that was it, but I would suspect the fact that it had been a hit in America first and was then brought to Japan might have had something to do with the success in Nihon. Especially in the 1960’s, Japan was trying to emulate the USA and if a show was successful in American, it meant it must be good to many Japanese.

      I lived a couple of years in Japan and worked for a Jew who had been born in Germany in the 1920’s and had to leave Europe for America when the war broke out. He immigrated to Japan in the early 1950’s and became very successful.

      He, and a Rabbi who was visiting from Israel, went to some function given by, I believe, Japanese Baptists. During the service the Japanese Baptists kept mixing up things from orthodox Judaism and Christianity and ended by singing “Hava nagila”, during which the Rabbi leaned over to my boss and with a smile said, “these people are very confused”. I wish I could remember all the details, but it was really very funny, especially if you grew up around conservative Christians and Jews and had worked in and understood Japan.

      Anyway, the point is that the Japanese have a gift for misunderstanding other cultures, particularly Western cultures. For many years after the war, “Westerner” meant American to the regular Japanese. Asians like Occidentals have their stereotypes. What the Japanese really have in common with the Jewish people is their sense of separateness or specialness.

      • RobL_V2 RobL_V2 says:

        I’m not sure the success of Fiddler in Japan was based on Western Emulation. Fiddler was far more successful in Japan then many other Western Broadway shows which were more popular then fiddler. I think its the particular story that resonated with Japanese. Japanese have a word called mono no aware which loosely translates as life is bittersweet. Fiddler hit on those sensibilities at a time when Japan was especially susceptible.

        Its not the inherent jewishness of the movie they are IDing with, I mean most americans and europeans who have been living with jews for 100s of years do not really understand Judaism (many secular jews don’t either) so hard to expect the Japanese understand the religion either. Its the story that really was a hit but part of that is the jewish ness of the story. For in the trials and tribulation of the jews over the past few millennium are themes we can all identify with.

        Lastly I think the statement offering the commonality of the specialness jews and japanese sense int themselves. This borders on chauvinism, to single out these two groups for such thought when really any particular group may harbor them is a little dangerous. I know you didn’t mean it that way but many a persecution has begun with such sentiments.

        • Kung Fu Zu says:

          I have lived in eight countries. I have had extensive dealings with Japanese, Chinese, Germans, Austrians, Belgians, Swiss, Singaporeans, Malaysians, English, Dutch, Koreans, Indonesians, Indians, French, Americans and Jews from several different countries. Thus my observations are not merely speculative nor second hand.

          And I think your remarks about my observations bordering on chauvinism are just pc rubbish. I did not say the Japanese and Jews are the only people who find themselves special. I said that was something they have in common.

          While many people think their countries of culture are special, although this is decreasingly the case in Europe, there is no doubt that Jews and Japanese find themselves particularly special. In this group one can also throw the Chinese. All this specialness is based on race and ethnic culture. You can disagree with it all you want, but it doesn’t change facts. Americans find themselves special, but I do not think it is because of race or ethnicity. I think it is more about the ideal of America. America is the only country that when you become a citizen of, you are adopting a political ideal. In other countries, this is not the case, at least from what I have seen.

          As to Jewish specialness, I think you are simply ignoring history. For several thousand years the Jews have seen themselves as the chosen people. Now many of today’s Jews are not religious, but if you think such a tradition is easily forgotten, I think you are fooling yourself. They also have a history of being abused by others so this has forged a closeness among them which other peoples may not have. I can’t remember how many times I have had discussions with Jews on subjects such as “why the Jews have been persecuted throughout history” and have heard replies that it is because the Jews were smarter or some such similar response. And in case you hadn’t noticed, many orthodox Jews today consider the biggest threat to the Jews is not the Arabs, but inter-marriage with Goyem. They want to remain apart.

          As to the Japanese, please get on any subway, go into any coffee shop or sit in any bar in any Japanese city. You may be amazed at the number of times you hear the terms, “we Japanese”, “Japan”, “the Japanese language”,etc. There are hundreds of thousands of Koreans who were born in and still live in Japan who are not citizens. The country is not real open to granting citizenship that easily.

          Now I have great admiration for the Jewish nation and when I say nation I am not referring to Israel, but the whole people as defined by an ethnic bond stretching back over 4000 years. And I believe the Japanese are, on the whole, the most artistic people in the world.

          But I do not subscribe to mealy-mouthed political correctness. In no way was my statement chauvinistic and even if it were, what does that matter? Nations and peoples have characteristics. I don’t have to assume this, I know it from experience. If speaking fact excites some people to violence or offends others, then all I can say is they should look to themselves.

          I thought this site was about honest frank opinions. If we have to couch everything we say in politically correct terms, then we are in trouble. Of course, if anyone can show me where I am factually wrong, I will happily admit it. I do like reasoned discussion based on fact.

          • Ed Cottingham says:

            KFZ>>America is the only country that when you become a citizen of, you are adopting a political ideal. In other countries, this is not the case, at least from what I have seen.
            ***
            It is also true of France in theory that immigrants can become fully French. They expect the cultural norms to be adopted as well as the political ideals. But it is a core idea of the modern French nation that it is a political and not an ethnic state.

          • RobL_V2 RobL_V2 says:

            Fu, I appreciate you are well traveled but you are not alone in checking the lived abroad box. We all have our reasoned minds and life experience from which we argue our points and I offered comments on what you wrote.

            I’m not offering PC rubbish in anyway. Programs and holocausts and even anti-Israel zealots posting on Yahoo! and NRO today attack Jews and say in your exact words ‘Jews think they are so special’. Its not meant to but I think that connotation is usually cast as an aspersion. The Chinese government preaches anti Japan rhetoric all the time and whips up protests (and then suppresses them when they get out of hand). Japan has been nothing but peaceful and humble to China and Korea for 50 years and still pays these thriving economies reparations (I’m sorry money). Not a day goes by when Korea doesn’t maneuver in the UN to hurt Japan or Korean politicians say anti Japanese statements. Sure Japanese politicians do the same, that is the way of the world.

            Of course orthodox are worried about intermarriage, any religious person would because it leads people away from the religion.

            I’d offer that Jews and japanese are nationalistic and ethnocentric and I’m all for that, its a good thing. America needs more of it, we are more threatened by Leftist inspired ‘multiculturalism’ then nationalism by a long shot. But to insinuate Japan and Jews are similar in their uniqueness to these values was wrong. My opinion and I don’t want to offend but if I don’t call them as I see them, how can we have engaging discussions?

            • Kung Fu Zu says:

              Rob, I am not offended at all.

              Nevertheless, I do not see where I insinuated that Japan and the Jews are alone in their sense of specialness which includes ethnicity. I said that is what the really have in common, as I didn’t think they had a lot else in common.

              I also did not say or insinuate that they were the only people who were ethnocentric, because there certainly are others such as the Chinese. But it is clear that both Jews and the Japanese consider themselves to be quite special, although the historical reasons for each are certainly different.

              As regards this particular string, I am not quite sure what you wished to say with your comments about the Koreans and Chinese constantly squeezing the Japanese for money. It is true that both Korea and China still give Japan a hard time, but as you probably know the Japanese have given both countries an excuse to do this by including the ashes of convicted war criminals in the Yasukuni Shrine.

              And as to ethic pride, I agree it is good to an extent, but extreme ethnic pride which went well beyond chauvinism was a major factor in the establishment of the Greater East Asia Co-Prosperity Sphere also known as WWII in which it is estimated by some that the Japanese killed something near twenty million Chinese. They certainly killed well over ten million and devastated the country for close to a decade. Korea is a more complicated question.

              As to anti-Israel zealots using similar or even the same language I use, well it may be, but nothing I said is false and I can’t help how others use the language. The Jews I know don’t have any problem talking to me in such terms. And I certainly don’t think these words or any which I have used in the context of these posts can be viewed as an incitement to violence or prejudice against anyone.

              Because some people use the word “Jew” as a slur, many seem to avoid using it and default to Jewish people or Israelis. Not I; Jew is the correct noun for an individual from a group of people who have been around for thousands of years. It is the rightful name and is very precise and nothing to be ashamed of.

              Which brings me back to my point about language. I try to be clear, but cannot be held accountable if others use similar words and/or terms for different purposes. I will therefore, continue to call’s um like I see’s um.

              • RobL_V2 RobL_V2 says:

                Perhaps I generated a tempest in a green teapot, probably if we were discussing over a beer we’d reach a satisfactory agreement on the generalities.

                If I could quibble though, because that’s where the fun is…

                Japan of today is not Japan of Co-Prosperity fame and that Japan paid the penalty for her transgressions. Yes war criminals are buried at the shrine but so are countless others and it’s to those others respect is being paid too…

                Korea and China are fabricating excuses to push their agendas at the UN and everywhere else. Its called spin and every nation does it but we should have enough sense to not be swayed by it yet as a nation we seen to perpetually fall victim to it; i.e. believing Cuba has a good healthcare system, Iran is developing nukes because they are nation of peace seeking alternative energy, N Korea (insert anything they say), and Israel building houses in their capital that has been planned for years (by both sides) is an obstruction to peace and so on…

                On the Jews – yes their torah tells them they are to be a light upon nations but they are perhaps the only western religion I know which doesn’t proselytize and does not ask others to think of them as special.

                Anyway if we shared a cup of sake and few quaffs of sabra, the semantics would disappear and we’d stand (perhaps stagger) together in collegial agreement.

                PS I’m a big fan of South Korea even though in general SK citizens have a baseline distain for America.

            • Kung Fu Zu says:

              By the way Rob, I was not simply trying to brag about where I have been. I mentioned this for a reason, i.e. to explain that I have had personal experience with many countries and cultures. And my statements were simply based on experience.

              Many Americans have not had much experience with either Jews or Japanese. Even fewer have experience with both.

        • Kung Fu Zu says:

          Rob, if I seem a little heated in my response it is because I firmly believe much of the trouble the country and world is in is because we have let the left define what is polite and proper conversation. They are masters at twisting language and meaning. That is why it is so important to avoid falling into the trap

          This lack of clarity is also one reason we are not able to solve so many of our problems. A problem cannot be solved until it is clearly defined. Only then can one go about finding a remedy. Think of all the problems in America that we are not solving because people are afraid to be clear about what the problems really are.

          • Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

            Ha! I don’t know about you, but I don’t mind being called a Chauvinist. Sounds old-fashioned. And my dictionary says “displaying exaggerated patriotism.” Good god, please slap me across the head if I’m ever not.

            • Kung Fu Zu says:

              I was going to go into that as well, but thought I would wait a little while. Many Americans can rightly be called chauvinists. And for good reason, the USA is a great country and has done much for humanity. But the left has made it a term of derision.

          • RobL_V2 RobL_V2 says:

            Heated is fine as long as its not personal, and it wasn’t.

            Look this site is to discuss the vital issues of our day. This stuff matters, I think its asking a lot to assume we will agree in lockstep on all topics. We need to respectfully listen do others and amicably disagree when the time is right. The Left has no dialogue, its a oneway street and the fines for disobedience are hefty.

            I hope we can have energetic debate on our side and be the stronger for it.

    • Ed Cottingham says:

      Reading your reactions to the film, Rob, I was thinking about how the score really does present the story rather than just being occasional musical splashes. So when the movie appeared, it was competing with a movie that was already in my head…not just a song but a story with characters and a whole world that they inhabited. Newcomers always lose in that sort of competition, which happens a lot with songs. You love a great old song and twenty years later a new cover version appears and you’ve got these wet-behind-the-ears ones talking about this great new song. When they hear the original, they are all like, “blah.”

      (Intended to land as a reply to Rob.)

  5. Ed Cottingham says:

    The chatter about the Japanese appreciation of this movie and how the Japanese relate to Jews is a point of real surprise and interest to me. I have taken a strong interest in the French (a sort of love/hate thing) over the last ten or fifteen years. I have had the theory that there is a particular affinity between the French and the Jews and between the French and the Japanese. There is nobody else in this circle of French affinity that I see. So now I am startled to discover that maybe the Japanese and the Jews have something going on of their own. Wild.

    One of the very striking things to me about the French is what a traditional culture they have, notwithstanding their penchant for radical politics. The French, for example, have an elaborate and formal code for polite greetings and such. It is considered quite rude to enter or leave a small shop without a “bonjour madame/monsieur” or an “au revoir madame/monsieur.” And the madame/monsieur part is absolutely mandatory. And so it is with the Japanese and their small rituals of politeness. The whole Impressionist movement in French art was very much involved with their discovery and strong embrace of Japanese art. There is something there between these two refined and formal cultures.

    Then the Jews and the French: Several years ago a Canadian newspaper did a series of articles on Jews leaving Israel. Their favored destinations were (1) France; (2) Canada; and, (3) USA. (I Googled a moment ago on this topic and see that a quarter of the Jews in France now wish to leave.) I have a bit more trouble putting my finger on the reason for Jews liking France (especially considering French complicity in the Holocaust) but, crudely, it seems to me a matter closely related to intelligence, although I am not really aware of any specific information that the French are more intelligent that other Europeans. But particularly around Paris, the French are strikingly precise and particular in ways that seem more intellectually keen than other communities of European people. And Jews, of course, have a few IQ points on the Caucasian average. And then again, how many great choices do Jews steeped in European cosmopolitanism have?

    Anyway, the French/the Jews/and the Japanese….just very interesting to me.

    • Kung Fu Zu says:

      If there is a particular affinity between the French and the Jews, it is something that is strictly post WWII. Prior to that, European Jews found their greatest flowering in the German speaking areas of Europe. The Rothschild family started on its journey to wealth in Frankfurt. The Mendelsohn, family, which was famous for philosophy, culture and banking was also from Germany. There is a book which goes into how important the Jews were to German science and culture from the mid nineteenth century until the Nazis came to power. The translated title is “Germany without Jews”. It is worth reading if you can find it.

      Certain aspects French culture may be similar to certain aspects of Japanese culture, but I do not believe there is any significant cultural sympathy between them. Of course, I would be happy to hear of any other special affinities or similarities you find exit.

      • Ed Cottingham says:

        I guess I failed to mention what is really the most striking thing about these three groups: the strength and persistence of tradition and long historical memory. But others certainly have long historical memories as well…just that not having much of a historical memory seems so sadly normal from an American perspective.

        Enjoyed your Chesterton quote.

        • Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

          Culture and identity is such an interesting issue, Jewish or otherwise. Identity (identity politics) is central to understanding the despoiling of our nation by the Left. “Multiculturalism” is one of the chief dogmatic points of the Religion of Leftism. In the short, it means “openness to all cultures and ideas,” which is the marketing slogan thrown at the useful idiots, the unwary, the unserious, and the low-information voters.

          But that “openness” is merely a means to water down and destroy the identity and the culture that the Left despises — our culture. This is where National Review Online becomes so irrelevant in the war against the Left. Few, if any, writers will state the basic premises upon which the Left is based. Apparently that is just considered too impolite.

          Now, the issue of culture and identity itself is interesting in that culture and identity are not necessarily good or bad. It depends upon which culture and what identity. Natan Sharansky tries (unsuccessfully, in my opinion) to make a case for identity in Defending Identity.”

          Unfortunately, Sharnasky simply defends identity itself as a good thing in context to the socialist/Leftist types whose first act is to try to strip people of their identity. I thus understand where Sharansky is coming from, but identity itself might be good (such as an authentic Christian identity) as opposed to, say, a Nazi or Muslim Brotherhood identity. Not all identities or cultures are the same.

          A much better book in this regard is Sowell’s “Race and Cultures” which takes a more objective view. Some practices are good, some are bad, although he doesn’t get into the aspect of identity itself from what I recall.

          But we are now in America in s position that surely Natan Sharansky would heartily understand. We need to defend our identity as Americans against the naive Utopianists of the Left who actually hate America and the West. These words are too rough for the “proper”people at NRO to say, but all of those who have studied the Left know it to be true. And former Leftists, such as David Horowitz and the late Chris Hitchens, even have admitted to it.

          • Kung Fu Zu says:

            What nobody says today, is that we are all tribal deep down. Most of us react to our tribal positively and identify with it. A few react negatively and hate it.

            • Ed Cottingham says:

              Blood, soil, and memory…the tribe.

              I saw somebody observing somewhere that “race” is just another word for kinship. We are all cousins in this world. Those who are closer to us racially are literally closer in kinship…closer cousins. [Edit: And evolutionary biology tells us that we are programmed to care most about the survival of our kin. We might even sacrifice ourselves to keep that gene pool thriving.]

              I am not big on trying to deny fundamental facts of nature. The arrogant Left always believes that dreaming it can make it so.

  6. Kung Fu Zu says:

    Rob, I am in general agreement with you. The fun is in quibbling and the devil is in the details.

    If the sake is hot and the weather cool, I am all for it.

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