The Pawnbroker

Rod Steiger in The Pawnbroker (dir. Sidney Lumet, 1965).

Charles Dierkop playing harmonica and pointing his gun at musclemen.

Some of the acting has that overdone 1960s playhousey vibe that is meant constantly to remind you that you're watching a film with a serious social message, but Rod Steiger succumbs to it himself only twice or thrice--for the most part, he seethes with a restrained anguish that is as real as any performance in the movies. Quincy Jones' score is a bit loud and frenetic at times (it's the source of the Austin Powers theme music!), but it goes nicely with Boris Kaufman's jittery urban camerawork. Kaufman's feel for architectural framing is superb. I have to say that the bleakness of the film left me irritated--not because it was bleak per se, but because I generally prefer my bleakness either unredemptive or pious, not both.

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