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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
The Pawnbroker is a very disturbing film. The title character, Sol Nazerman,
played by Rod Steiger, is an aging Holocaust concentration camp survivor
running a pawnshop in New York. A young hispanic man who works in the
pawnshop looks up to Steiger's character, hoping to learn from the older man's years of experience and expertise in both financial and other business matters.
Steiger's character is emotionally closed throughout the entire length of the film. Jarrring flashbacks to the time when Nazerman was happy with his wife and two small children become increasingly menacing and tragic as the Nazi
domination and cruelty become more dominant. Steiger's character survives his family. The guilt attached to that survival haunts Nazerman as he numbly
proceeds throughout the present-day portions of the film.
This movie takes a huge risk even in it's premise because the title character is never really likable. You certainly have empathy for what Nazerman has
experienced in his life, but the harsh and dismissive way in which he treats both people close to him and the tragic figures who frequent his pawnshop leave you little choice but to have mixed feelings about this man.
Rod Steiger is excellent. It's incredible to think that less than three years later after playing this character, an elderly Jewish concentration camp survivor,
Steiger won an Oscar for his portraying southern bigoted police chief Bill
Gillespie in Norman Jewison's In the Heat of the Night.
Sidney Lumet's direction is excellent. The photography is a starkly shot black and white with a grainy almost documentary-type feel to it. The score by Quincy Jones is somewhat uneven, with inappropriate upbeat instrumentation intruding in to somber scenes.
All in all, a very good film, but definitely excruciatingly somber in tone.
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