Tuesday, 27 May 2014

The Pawnbroker [1964]

The Pawnbroker, Lumet’s adaptation of Edward Wallant’s novel, belongs to the elite list of films on the Halocaust that didn't trivialize, sensationalize or sentimentalize the dark episode. Brooding, downbeat and deeply discomfiting, helped in no small measures by exquisite aesthetics, rising tempo, and a marvelous lead performance, the film painted a powerful portrayal of the harrowing memories of WWII. Sol Nazerman (Rod Steiger), a gruff, cynical and taciturn middle-aged loner, runs a small pawn-broking shop at East Harlem in New York, where he treats his customers with disdain. He’s also forever inflicted with the debilitating memories of the devastation suffered by his family and fellow Jews at Auschwitz, and on account of that he lives in a graveyard of isolation and bitterness, completely bereft of any faith on god and mankind. Four disparate developments, meanwhile, act as key drivers as the film is taken to a nightmarish finale – Jusus (Brock Peters), a Puerto Rican who works as an apprentice at his shop, frustrated with lack of attention received, plans for armed burglary with local hoodlums; Sol learns, through Jesus’ fiancée, that the racketeer who uses the shop as a cover, also runs a prostitution arm; he’s having an affair on the sly with a fellow-Holocaust survivor who’d lost her husband in the camps; and, a kindly but naïve social worker (Geraldine Fitzgerald) tries in vain to befriend Sol. The film comprised of fabulous B/W photography, replete with excellent usage of camera angles, shadows, framing, zooms and innovative flashbacks, to evoke the moody atmosphere and oppressive nature of memory, terrific jazz-based score, and Steiger’s powerful portrayal of the protagonist’s scarred psyche, inner turmoil, anger and implosion.

Director: Sidney Lumet
Genre: Drama/Psychological Drama/Urban Drama
Language: English
Country: US

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