Hidden Gems: The Pawnbroker
With Rod Steiger, Geraldine Fitzgerald, Brock Peters and Jaime Sanchez.
Sidney Lumet is one of my all-time favorite directors and is a master of social realism. This film is no exception. It’s also quite a cinematic landmark because it is the first film featuring a woman’s bare breasts to receive a Production Code Seal. Moreover, Rod Steiger is absolutely brilliant as the Jewish pawnbroker who can’t let go of his past.
We get a lot of the quick flash-cuts back to his days of being persecuted by the Nazis, kind of like the ones we’ve seen utilized by David Fincher in Fight Club and Seven. According to some sources, these flashbacks represent some of the earliest depictions of a concentration camp in a non-documentary film. It’s a really impactful film, and Lumet has an uncanny ability to push his actors to the limit and get the absolute best out of them. The striking black-and-white photography reminded me a lot of some of the early European filmmakers. The influence of realists like Jean Renoir is clearly apparent in this, and in much of Lumet’s work.
RIYL: The Woodsman, Sophie’s Choice, The Reader.