SIFF 2014: The Pawnbroker**** (Archival Presentation)

By Dennis Hartley

(Originally posted on Digby’s Hullabaloo on May 31, 2014)

SIFF has secured a newly-struck print for the 50th anniversary of this Sidney Lumet film. Rod Steiger delivers a searing performance as a Holocaust survivor, suffering from (what we now know as) PTSD. Hostile, paranoid and insular, Steiger’s character is a walking powder keg, needled daily not only by haunting memories of the concentration camp, but by the fear and dread permeating the tough, crime-ridden NYC neighborhood where his pawnshop is located. When he finally comes face-to-face with the darkest parts of his soul, and the inevitable breakdown ensues, it’s expressed in a literal “silent scream” that is arguably the most astonishing moment in Steiger’s impressive canon of work. Morton S. Fine and David Friedkin adapted their screenplay from Edward Lewis Wallant’s novel. Lumet’s intense character study is a prime example of the move toward “social realism” in American film that flourished in the early 1960s.

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