Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Must see film...Sol Nazerman's Existential angst in "The Pawnbroker"

This is one of the most powerful films, like Ingmar Bergman's The Seventh Seal and Frank Perry's David and Lisa, that I viewed in my youth--The Pawnbroker [1964]. It is a dark film of personal conflict and abandonment of interpersonal relationships. Sol wants nothing more than to be a pawnbroker and refrain from human contact.

Conversation between Sol Nazerman [Rod Steiger] and Marilyn Birchfield [Geraldine Fitzgerald] [social worker]...

Marilyn Birchfield: What makes you so bitter?

Sol Nazerman: Bitter?

Sol Nazerman: No, no, Miss Birchfield, I am not "bitter". No, that passed me by a million years ago. I'm a man of no anger. I have no desire for vengeance for what was done to me. I have escaped from the emotions. I am safe within myself. All I ask and want is peace and quiet.

Marilyn Birchfield: Why haven't you found them?

Sol Nazerman: Because people like you will not let me. Miss Birchfield, you have made the afternoon very tedious with your constant search for an answer. And one more thing: please, stay out of my life.

Plot [Wikipedia]...

With the rise of Hitler, Sol Nazerman (Steiger), a German-Jewish university professor, is dragged to a concentration camp along with his family. He sees his two children die and his wife raped by Nazi officers. Now he operates a pawnshop in East Harlem. Numbed by his experiences, he has worked hard not to experience emotions. Nazerman is bitter and alienated, viewing the people around him as "rejects, scum."

He is idolized by a young Puerto Rican, Jesus Ortiz (Sánchez), but the youth's friendship is rebuffed, as are those of Marilyn Birchfield (Fitzgerald), a neighborhood social worker.

Nazerman learns that Rodriguez (Peters), a racketeer who uses the pawnshop as a front, makes his money through prostitution. He recalls his wife's degradation and wants no part of it. This results in a clash with Rodriguez. Ortiz, hurt when Nazerman says that he means nothing to him, spitefully arranges for the pawnshop to be robbed. Nazerman refuses to hand over his money. Ortiz takes the bullet intended for Nazerman and dies in his arms.


In 2008, The Pawnbroker was selected for preservation in the United States National Film Registry by the Library of Congress as being "culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant".

A clip...

The Pawnbroker [Wikipedia]

David and Lisa [Wikipedia]

The Seventh Seal [Wikipedia]

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