April 23, 1965 [The Pawnbroker]

Twenty years is nothing--considering the aspirations of the Nazis, a Thousand-Year Reich made of iron resolve and cleansed with soap made from murdered Jews. Twenty years, and some of those death-camp children are grown, and I wonder if they love the Beatles, and what those screams at the stadium sound like in their ears.

Rod Steiger will not tell us. The Pawnbroker is all he wants to be, in a New York that is plain spaces and grimy shops, with the suburbs at the edge, where he sits like a paperweight, a crack forming all along his surface. Steiger balls up his pawnbroker and flings him against the city’s walls, and the mess of it makes those twenty years tear like hasty stitches holding in a wound, the black blood refusing to be staunched. It was a sickening movie, a horror like nothing in Famous Monsters of Filmland--where Death kindly wears a rubber mask so we know He’s here. Steiger’s pawnbroker also wears a mask--but to hide the death he has to carry so that we barely notice him--until he cries out at the end, drowning in sacrifice, the first Holocaust still burning in his shop, where he crucifies himself for others’ sins.


Popular Posts