The Pawnbroker | Chicago Reader

The Pawnbroker

116 minutes

The pawnbroker of the title is an emotionally frozen Jewish concentration-camp survivor (Rod Steiger) whose remoteness from the life around him in Harlem is severely tested, in an ambitious but pretentious adaptation of Edward Lewis Wallant's novel by David Friedkin and Morton Fine, directed by Sidney Lumet. As usual, Lumet has a good feel for New York locations, enhanced here by Boris Kaufman's superb black-and-white cinematography, and works well with the actors (Geraldine Fitzgerald, Brock Peters, Jaime Sanchez, Thelma Oliver, Juano Hernandez, and Raymond St. Jacques). But this 1965 film was made at the height of the French New Wave's influence on American art cinema, and Lumet's clumsy appropriations of Alain Resnais' distinctive way with editing and flashbacks only increases the stridency of the material. Quincy Jones furnished the score.

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