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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
Never has internal pain been so vividly portrayed.
This is in my 50 best movies of all time list.
Rod Steiger,a gifted actor, is at his very best here portraying Sol Nazerman, a pawnbroker who is completely shut down emotionally.
Through flashbacks, some fast, mostly slow, we see both the joy and subsequent horror of Sol's life in Nazi Germany, when his wife and children are swept into the camps and killed. Sol's deepest pain is that he survived and he carries it visibly. Nothing touches him. He is removed from humanity, living a life outside anyone else's.
This is never more exemplified than at his shop, where he is behind bars, often in shadow, while humanity moves outside, sometimes pleading with him, sometimes just wishing to make an emotional contact to no avail.
Brilliant black and white photography. Quincy Jones' music underscores this, it is jazzy 60s type of music, loud and vibrant, totally contrasting with the dark, dead world of Sol.
The supporting cast are terrific and the outdoor location shooting in New York is riveting. The movement of street life against the heaviness of Sol's plodding.
I still find it hard to believe that Rod lost the Oscar to Lee Marvin in the forgettable "Cat Ballou" (!!) that year.
This has to be seen by any serious lovers of movies. The last scene, done in one continuous take is heartbreaking, Sol finally getting in touch with the pain he has buried so deeply. Gut wrenching stuff. 9 out of 10.
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