Sidney Lumet's direction is not the highlight of The Pawnbroker -- it can be heavy-handed and self-conscious at times -- but Rod Steiger's searing portrayal of a freed Holocaust victim trying to make a living as a pawnbroker in Harlem is unforgettable. Steiger's Method acting is dead-on, offering up a character so wracked by the past that he's barely functional in the present: So he places the love of money over all else in his life. Lumet's use of awkward flashbacks to the concentration camps, actually hinders the storytelling rather than help it.
Great voyages often make great movies, and Burt Lancaster's "swimming home" from house to house across a ritzy Connecticut county in an attempt to figure out his life, is one of them. At first he seems completely content, visiting friends across the valley from his house, but as his backyard-pool trip continues, a darker story emerges, as he encounters people from his past (all of whom seem to be spending the day out by the pool). From romantic affairs to strange business dealings to a world of debt to general neurotic behavior, Lancaster's Ned Merrill is a tragic hero for the '60s, and it's one of Lancaster's most searing performances. Frank Perry's direction is dated (though Sydney Pollack may have done uncredited work on it), but that oddly makes the film even more memorable.