Wednesday, July 11, 2012


When watching Sidney Lumet film, one has to expect few things by default: an engrossing drama, a powerful screenplay, flawless performances and technically brilliant film. And just like most of memorable films of his prolific career, this one is surely one worthy to watch without single thought. Though it’s not as brilliant as ’12 Angry Man’ and ‘Network’, two of my favorite Lumet films; it’s surely an engaging drama well portrayed, well acted and well narrated.

It begins with naturalistic slow motion opening shot of happy family enjoying leisure in woods and suddenly…jump cut…we see a middle aged fat man lying on relax chair in his courtyard. The man is Mr. Nazerman, the pawnbroker who lends money for personal objects sold by helpless needy working class men often drop at his shop. There is a long scene in his prison like pawnshop and Lumet brilliantly captured many things but what is most prominent is the character of Nazerman as hard cynic who emotionally almost indifferent in his approach. ‘You are merciless man for sure’, people called him. That doesn’t make much of difference as he believed, ‘Sell your sorrows somewhere else’. As he proclaimed in one of brilliant scene breaking the heart of Miss Birchfield, “I am a man escaped from emotions and safe within myself.” Just like his pawnshop, he is the man of self confined prison. With constantly flickering conjuring up of images like some sort of nightmare, it’s not difficult to guess the personal tragedy that he faced in Nazi concentration camp and holocaust. But rather than telling that part, Lumet focused more on character driven melodrama and much of it reflects in the second part with another drama running parallel. A young and enthusisastic man named Ortiz working as helper with a willingness to learn a business from Nazerman whom he considered as Master with due respect. The struggling Master-disciple kind of relationship leads towards unthinkable tragedy in the climax breaking Nazerman.

Just like his contemporary Elia Kazan, he is the master who managed to get brilliant and flawless performances from his lead actors in most of his films. Even some of the finest actors otherwise wasted largely delivered their best in his cinema and won Oscar. And I must say that equally to Lumet, this is absolutely the film one has to watch for Rod Steiger’s award deserving performance as Nazerman. Though considering him as fine actor, Lumet was not much inclined to cast him initially. But Steiger maintained his character so flawlessly from beginning to end. Boris Kaufman’s fine B&W camerawork is indeed thing to watch and for Lumet, he was undoubtedly the greatest dramatic cameraman of Hollywood he has seen.

If you’re Lumet fan, this is surely a film for you.


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