I have chanced upon a large collection of very old movies some of which I should have seen a long while ago but couldn’t because of inaccessibility. As much as I can, I will tell you my views on them, and the impact they had on me (for those that do make an impact, that is). The last week has been a tour of Guys and Dolls, a movie featuring Frank Sinatra and Marlon Brando (before he became the large framed guy we grew up knowing). The 1955 musical is famous for being the only movie in which the two famous men starred together, and the only one in which Marlon Brando sang. The story is nuanced and playful, but very entertaining, and timeless.

The other new memorable film I saw, also a musical, is The Fiddler on the Roof, a powerful story of family, love, tradition and the departure therefrom, and the story of the Jewish persecution in Tsarist Russia. I am always inevitably drawn to stories that have real life historical background because they constantly remind that we’re not just watching a movie, but learning from the story of a people that lived during a trying period in the larger history of the world. This story, based on the life of Tevye, a poor Jewish man with five daughters, is set in 1905 and tells of the endurance and transience of tradition, the strength of love’s bond, the perseverance of humanity in the face of persecution, the conviviality of family life, and the presence of hope in every dire situation. It was particularly interesting for me to discover that the persecution of Jews in Russia did not start during the Second World War but had been there far much earlier. And when you see a whole village trooping out on their feet in the cold winter out of a place where they’d lived for generations into the outside world to places unknown, your heart breaks. Add to this a letting go of a father of her daughter who had abandoned the faith and family tradition by marrying a Christian secretly, then you get a scene of denouement with a powerful emotional finish.

I can’t tell you more of any of them without letting out the plot, but I must strongly recommend them for whomever is interested in musicals, history, love, laughter and a few teardrops. You may also come off with a strong love for a few of the songs in The Fiddler on the Roof. My favourite is “Sunrise, Sunset.” and “If I were a rich man”, but you may also like “Tradition” and “Matchmaker.” As for Guys and Dolls, watch out for “Luck be a Lady” and a few other jazz classics.

Ten stars out of ten.

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