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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
Rod Steiger gives the greatest lead-actor performance I have ever seen in the title role of the Pawnbroker. Lumet's direction strikes no false note and neither does the incredibly well-researched and painfully honest script. It's hard to believe how virtually forgotten this true masterpiece of a survivor's private hell. It shows very vividly that even those of us lucky enough to survive the camps need to be ever more rare of spirit to survive without significant trauma scars. Steiger extracts every piece of emotion from his character with a performance that exceeds all that came before it and has never been surpassed. Every aspiring actor needs to view Steiger's performance to realize how magnificent it truly is.
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