The Pawnbroker


Action / Drama

Rotten Tomatoes Critics - Certified Fresh 100%
Rotten Tomatoes Audience - Upright 88%
IMDb Rating 7.8 10 6761


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May 05, 2014 at 08:44 PM



Morgan Freeman as Man on Street
Geraldine Fitzgerald as Marilyn Birchfield
Rod Steiger as Sol Nazerman
Brock Peters as Rodriguez
818.62 MB
23.976 fps
1hr 56 min
P/S 5 / 17

Movie Reviews

Reviewed by elvircorhodzic 8 / 10

"...everything that I loved... was taken away from me, and... I did not die...".

THE PAWNBROKER is an anxious drama about a man who lives, without emotion and compassion, in his bitter past and a brutal present. It is based on the novel of the same name by Edward Lewis Wallant. One man, who has survived the Holocaust, wanders between two realities, and constantly pushes people around him.

Sol Nazerman, a German-Jewish university professor, works as a pawnbroker in East Harlem, while living in an anonymous Long Island apartment. He has survived imprisonment in a Nazi concentration camp, while his wife and family did not. He works hard and cynically watches the people around him. The devastating experience and unrelenting memories inhibit Sol from emotional involvement with life. His pawn shop is the perfect cover for a local racketeer...

The topics related to alienation, loneliness and inability to adjust give a disturbing tone to this melodrama. The main protagonist is a deeply traumatized, intellectually exhausted, and emotionally damaged person. Every event in his life, wakes a painful and disturbing memories. He is completely lost in his inner anxious struggle between two worlds. However, his pictures of the past is covered by a burden of the present. He is finally awake and able to accept a guilt and shame for his daily actions towards other people. The point is reflected in the abuse, the horrors of concentration camps and the life of the middle class around New York.

The atmosphere is eerie and sexually exhausted, characterization is very good, and the sound emphasizes a kind of disorder in society.

Rod Steiger as Sol Nazerman is a man who is a prisoner of his own past, bitterness and cynicism. Mr. Steiger has showed the great versatility of a troubled and broken character.

His support are Geraldine Fitzgerald (Marilyn Birchfield) as a social worker who, in a clumsy and spontaneous way, tries to attract an alienated gentleman in her life, Jaime Sánchez (Jesus Ortiz) as Sol's assistant and a young man on a verge of criminality and Brock Peters (Rodriguez) as a believable and brutal crime boss.

This is a strong and convincing work, no matter what the intensity of the story depends on Steiger's excellent performance and some nudity.

Reviewed by sharky_55 9 / 10

What happened?

The Pawnbroker deals not within the Holocaust but in its aftermath - such an event having an undeniable aftershock in the world's community. This type of treatment has a different power in 1964 than nowadays, where the Holocaust is a sacred and delicate topic reserved for but the most revered directors, demanding utmost solemnity. Compare this to Lumet's direction. See, for example, how the lively character of Jesus Ortiz is introduced to us. The setting is the dim, still pawn shop, and then Jesus bursts in from the side entrance like a sitcom character, blasts his trumpet a few times, and bumbles around without doing much work. The second person who breaches Sol's cage is a loud black woman, almost a walking stereotype, who reacts to his meagre offer for her ornate candlesticks with hysterical, over-the-top laughter, as if they were both in on a practical joke. Sol remains unmoved.

Rod Steiger is a frigid and cold type. He shuffles silently around the interiors of his pawn shop, and Boris Kaufman captures his profile in a way so that it is always obscured and hidden behind layers of protection and distance, either physically in the shadows of bars over his face and the steel-mesh cage, or in his body language, in the way Steiger never holds a gaze while his customers unload the tales of their merchandise. They might as well be talking to a brick wall. Sol is unwavered by their nostalgia for these relics, and has a good reason for being unwilling to delve back into the past. His curt, clipped replies offer no weakness to probe or enter, and act as a foil to the emotional desperation of the customers who are often parting with treasured belongings because of dire financial need. In one particularly haunting sequence, a man walks hobbles in looking not for money but merely a face to talk to and an ear to listen, and Sol coldly turns him away.

Lumet unveils the cracks slowly, as if wanting to avoid the branding of a Holocaust film immediately so that we are not so quick to cast our sympathies out. The direction doesn't force Sol's hand, but merely presents his circumstances in a way which reveals his past and how unforgettable the torment of the concentration camp must be. At first, subtly, he introduces characters which shake up the equilibrium of the lowly pawn shop. When black boys come in to pawn an expensive lawnmower, Sol directs a thinly veiled accusation at its origins, and we can feel the tension in the room. The object rocks his apparent cold impartiality, and through Steiger's eyes we witness him wresting between his disdain for the 'scum' and the silent front he has forged through years of suffering and mourning. Another is Marilyn Birchfield, the local social worker, who is so entirely honest and open-faced that we wonder how she has survived so long in Harlem. Because she presents herself as a figure of charity and future change, Sol rejects the very idea of her; such kindness and humility does not agree with his pessimistic worldview, forged from the horror of his experiences. When she tries to reach out (on the balcony of a sunny, skyscraper apartment, no less) he bitterly unleashes what he swore he would not release, and refuses her hand.

The past is revealed in stuttered flashbacks, not as grand condemnations but as filtered and intensely personal memories which resurface despite Sol's insistence on pushing them down deeper. Lumet channels Alain Resnais, who in Night and Fog created a haunting juxtaposition of the past and present. While the camera hovers all around the city and slums, it picks up on indiscriminate events which are magnified through his vision; a man trying to escape from a gang of thugs reminds him of the barbed wire walls of the camp, and a pregnant girl pawning her ring forces his mind back to the image of Jewish wedding rings being picked off the conveyor line of the same fence. One sequence involving an prostitute's offer plays out like a tape rolling between two scenes over and over, as the site of bare breasts invokes an ugly memory of the rape of his wife. The unsettling effect is combined with overlapping sound tracks until the two scenes converge into one painful, singular moment for Sol. Sexual bliss has been long eradicated from his life - see how the edits flit from Jesus and his girlfriend in an animated tryst, and then to Sol and his partner, who treat sex like an oft-forgotten obligation, an act of silent passion.

Steiger's greatest moment comes when he realises his complicity all these years with the local racketeer Rodriguez and his prostitution den, and his entire face scrunches up in agony because his distance has been all for nought. Quincy Jones' jazzed up, uninhibited score hurtles along with the camera through Harlem, and betrays Sol's old world sensibilities by being piped out from every murky street corner and store. There is excitement and energy leaking from the seams of the post-war society, one that he is quick to stamp out of his protégé. But in Jesus' death he finds new meaning and existence. The man who once felt the greatest pain of them all is allowed vulnerability once more, and perhaps a new start can finally begin.

Reviewed by morrison-dylan-fan 10 / 10

"What you do to join? learn to walk on water."

Getting back into watching TV shows, (with the jet-black BBC Comedy series Fleabag being the most recent great discovery)I decided to take a look at the shows on Netflix UK.As I checked up on the TV section,I stumbled on a movie that I had received high praise in a review on IMDb's Film Noir board, which led to me getting ready to trade things in with the pawnbroker.

The plot:

Since seeing the rest of his family killed in a concentration camp, Sol Nazerman (the only member of the family to not be killed in the camp) has closed himself off to the rest of the world,with the brief glimpses to the numbers on his arm bringing memories back to Nazerman that he tries to keep repressed. Working in a pawn shop used by gangster Rodriguez as a front for money laundering, Nazerman spends each day meeting the "Rejects" and "Scum" of society.Joining the pawnbrokers, Jesus Ortiz looks up to Nazerman,but is hurt by the fist Nazerman breaks his attempt at friendship with. As local social worker Marilyn Birchfield attempts to get Nazerman to let his guard down a bit, Ortiz decides to break the pawnbroker.

View on the film:

Mostly filmed at real locations (including a pawnshop at 1642 Park Avenue) director Sidney Lumet (who took over after Arthur Hiller got sacked,and Stanley Kubrick/Karel Reisz and Franco Zeffirelli all turned the project down) and cinematographer Boris Kaufman give the title an extraordinary grubby Film Noir atmosphere,with jagged wide track shots treading on all the rot and decay lining Nazerman's cold existence. Backed by the hard Funk of Quincy Jones,Lumet,Kaufman and editor Ralph Rosenblum display a masterful sense of collaboration. Digging into Nazerman's repressed memories,Lumet and Rosenblum's pin-sharp editing gradually brings the fragmented horrors that Nazerman faced into light,as the barrier put at the front of the shop places Nazerman in his self-imposed prison.

Showing that he could do a role that Lumet was hoping to give to James Mason or Groucho Marx (!),Rod Steiger gives an incredible performance as Nazerman. Withholding everything apart from pure Film Noir vile for those he sees as the scum of society, Steiger incredibly keeps a vice like grip on Nazerman's repressed memories,which are treated with great psychological care by Steiger,whose wall of nihilism is built by Nazerman making all his other emotions dead to the world. Joined by some Blaxploitation jiving from Brock Peters smooth Rodriguez and the powerfully wounded Jaime Sánchez's take on Jesus Ortiz, Geraldine Fitzgerald gives a dazzling performance as Marilyn Birchfield,by stepping away from what could be big, emotional scenes,to instead give Birchfield's meetings with Nazerman a quiet, heartfelt sincerity.

Breaking the Production Code in bringing Edward Lewis Wallant's book to the screen,the screenplay by Morton S. Fine & David Friedkin superbly walks into the Film Noir wilderness of Nazerman's life with brittle dialogue that spills the coldness Nazerman views society in across the screen. Taking the rather unique decision to look at the Holocaust in a non-War movie,the writers study the lingering after effects of the atrocity on Nazerman,whose brief releasing of the withheld memories leads to Nazerman finally feeling the decades of emotions he has been keeping on the shelves of the pawnbrokers.

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