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The Pawnbroker [Import]

Rod Steiger , Geraldine Fitzgerald , Sidney Lumet    Unrated   DVD
5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (10 customer reviews)
Price: CDN$ 85.33
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Based on a novel by Edward Lewis Wallant, this gritty story follows Sol (Rod Steiger in a breakout performance), a lonely camp survivor who has dealt with the destruction of his family by suppressing all emotion and cleaving to the philosophy that nothing matters except money. (His bedridden and dying friend Mendel describes him, to his face, as "the walking dead.") Sol cannot accept the friendship of his assistant, Ortiz (Jaime Sanchez), or of an equally lonely widow (Geraldine Fitzgerald). As the 25th anniversary of his wife's murder approaches, he starts to fall apart, and it becomes clear that what he really wants is to die. The film was considered shocking when first released, both because of its rawness and because of brief nudity. Time has made some of the dramatic touches seem melodramatic--especially the corny "blood on my hands!" final scene. But Steiger's performance is still remarkable, and, even after MTV, the sudden-flashback editing is a forceful technique. A high point of Sidney Lumet's career. Black and white, with lots of atmospheric trumpets by Quincy Jones. --Richard Farr

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Most helpful customer reviews
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Rod Steiger's best work. Jan. 10 2004
By Donato
This black & white art film from the Sixties holds up extremely well thanks to Rod Steiger's wonderful performance and Sidney Lumet's gritty direction. The film, not to mention the novel it was based upon, is one of my favorites because it captures graphically the way the main character's memories of the Holocaust hold him prisoner years later as a Harlem pawnbroker. With his life long ago drained of joy and feeling, he is at once the victim of his pawnshop and life, and the businessman who's lost the ability to empathize with his poor and victimized (but often amazingly hopeful) customers. Add to the drama an urban jazz score by Quincy Jones and you have a picture that belongs in any serious film lover's collection.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Astounding performance Oct. 15 2003
Rod Steiger's performance in this film is the best of his career. Period. He was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Actor, 1965, and should easily have won--although he did not. In this powerful film, he plays Sol Nazerman, a seedy denizen of New York's Lower East Side who makes his living as a pawnbroker. Into his store come lowlifes of all sorts--hookers, junkies, thieves. Nazerman is a survivor of the Holocaust and carries enormous psychic scars that refuse to stop tearing at his soul.
As a vicious menacing crime figure, Brock Peters is also superb--the present-day reminder to Nazerman of how evil never dies. Other cast members include Geraldine Fitzgerald as a sympathetic caseworker and Jaime Sanchez as Nazerman's young Latino assistant who is of another generation and another culture, and cannot understand his boss' terrible anguish.
Director Sidney Lumet has done an outstanding job here conveying the lifelong suffering that horrific evil brings with it. This is not a graphic film, but one that delivers its message before the days of special effects via pure drama. It is a great thing to have this now available on DVD; this is a film that should be seen by those who treasure phenomenal acting and powerful emotion.
Very highly recommended; the best American film of 1965 and one of the best American films of the 20th century.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Sounds of Silence July 2 2003
Format:VHS Tape
This is one of only a few films in which there are certain scenes which, for various reasons, I find almost unbearable to watch again. The others include the scene at the train station when Sophie must make her choice, the sequence of murders in In Cold Blood, the burning of the church in The Patriot, the multiple hangings in The Ox-Bow Incident, and the evisceration of William Wallace in Braveheart.
Brilliantly directed by Sidney Lumet, with equally brilliant cinematography by Boris Kaufman (both of whom should have at least been nominated for an Academy Award), this is among the first films to dramatize with high levels of seriousness and sensitivity the essential evil of the Holocaust. Sol Nazerman is the central character, played by Rod Steiger who was nominated for an Academy Award for best actor. Lee Marvin received that award for his role in Cat Ballou. (I thoroughly enjoyed Marvin's performance but still think Steiger deserved the award. To his credit, so did Marvin and said so.) Nazerman is a pawnbroker in New York City, having long ago lost (or so it seems) his ability to have an feelings for anyone else...or even for himself. His mind may be especially alert but his heart is numb.
In terms of plot, not much happens. Most of the the film focuses is on Nazerman's dysfunctional interactions with other people, notably with Marilyn Birchfield (played by Geraldine Fitzgerald) and Jose Ortiz (Jaime Sanchez) who works for Nazerman. What's Nazerman's problem? With meticulous care, Lumet gradually reveals the past from which he emerged but, in certain respects, from which he has not survived. His "problem" is that he has lost his will to live but not to exist.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars a cinematic masterpiece beyond criticism March 8 2002
Format:VHS Tape
"the pawnbroker" is the best and most powerful film having to do with the holocaust that i have ever seen. rod steiger gives one of the best performances in the history of american movies, and the devastating implications of the events of WW2 for human beings is delivered here in full force. even the criminal steiger unwillingly works for seems to understand exactly what is going on in his wary employee's mind in his attempts to shut out all emotion as a result of his horrendous experience and in one unforgettable scene roars, "then that makes you NOTHING!" this is a picture of a broken man and an indifferent, evil world, both brutalized beyond redemption. absolutely magnificent and almost unbearably touching.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars My Favorite Movie Feb. 6 2001
Format:VHS Tape
This movie had a devastating effect on me when I first saw it in 1965. It has always haunted me with it's starkness and horror. Nazermans inability to feel for anybody while trying to reach out to them is close to the feelings I have sometimes. His past is naturally more important than that of many movie roles. This movie was made at a time when the youth market had not taken over the movies yet and intelligence reigned in Hollywood. Sadly, there is little to recommend american movies anymore.
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