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In a poor neighborhood of New York, the bitter and lonely Jewish pawnbroker Sol Nazerman is a survivor from Auschwitz that has no emotions or feelings. Sol lost his dearest family and friends in the war and his faith in God and belief in mankind. Now he only cares for money and is haunted by daydreams, actually flashbacks from the period of the concentration camp. Sol's assistant is the ambitious Latino Jesus Ortiz, who wants to learn with Sol how to run a business of his own. When Sol realizes that the obscure laundry business he has with the powerful gangster Rodriguez comes also from brothels, Sol recalls the fate of his beloved wife in the concentration camp and has a nervous breakdown. His attitude leads Jesus Ortiz to tragedy and Sol finds a way to cry. Written by
Claudio Carvalho, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
Although the supporting cast is uniformly excellent (Brock Peters especially so), they are really only believable props to what is, essentially, a one-man performance by Rod Steiger.
And what a performance it is! Steiger grabs your emotions, and maintains a hold long after the final credits roll. He sucks all the oxygen out of the room, and you're not able to draw a deep breath until it's over.
For some reason, this movie seems to have faded from public awareness, and isn't all that easy to find. I first saw it in 1965, and then again about 30 years later; it packed the same emotional wallop the second time around.
Both Steiger and director Sidney Lumet have done plenty of excellent work since The Pawnbroker, but this remains the highwater mark for both.
It is, unquestionably, one of the most powerful films ever made, and that's a might tough act to follow.
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