Monday, September 05, 2011

Secrets of Success

From The Pawnbroker (1964):

I guess I should object to Sol Nazerman’s assertion that the Jews don’t have a land myth; on the contrary, at 3800 years old, Zionism takes the cake for the most enduring land myth in history.

Otherwise, several things stand out:

  • Sidney Lumet made this movie in 1964.  I’m guessing that the image of a Jew operating a small independent shop in an inner city neighborhood resonated with audiences back then in a way that it doesn’t today.  Besides the fact that Gentiles are today actively discouraged from thinking of Jews at all except as yet another victim class, most Jews today have evolved beyond the “middleman minority” role.
  • As Andrew Young got himself fired for pointing out, Jewish shopkeepers were replaced in the inner city by Koreans, who were themselves replaced by Persians and Arabs.  Their experiences have much in common with one another:  a high degree of frugality; cultural insularity; and strained relations with the surrounding community.
  • Sidney Lumet gives us an unromantic view of the inner city that has more in common with The Wire than with media portrayals of “the black experience” in most of the intervening period.  It shows, not just crime, but a wide range of dysfunction including prostitution and drug addiction.  But this dysfunction, or the perception of it, is behind the negative views that middleman minorities have of most of their customers.
  • I was surprised to find nudity in this film.  The MPAA rating system wouldn’t be introduced until 1968, and the Hays Code was still in effect.  Can anybody think of instances of other mainstream films from this area that show a woman’s breasts?

Tech bleg:  I had no sooner uploaded this movie to YouTube when I received an email:

Dear Phi:

Your video, The Pawnbroker (1964) - Secrets of Success, may have content that is owned or licensed by UMG.

Wow!  How did YouTube figure this out so fast?  Could material copied from a DVD, decrypted, and edited in Windows Live Movie Maker still have metadata that would identify its origins?  Because it boggles the mind that YouTube has a computer that can recognize a particular movie scene.


Anonymous said...

I find it amusing that a patent for something new and creative that improves human life for millions of people is good for 7 years, but the property rights for old movies, music and the speeches of MLK are protected long after the deaths of those people who created it.

Elusive Wapiti said...


I guess it is so because it doesn't matter. If such so-called IP actually mattered in the big scheme of things--other than as a vehicle to make money in perpetuity via residuals--then there would be legislation to limit the patent/TM/royalties too.


I just finished reading Gibbons' Rise and Fall of the Roman Empire. In it, he mentions that the Jews then were as insular and conspicuous and as prickly a minority as they were in ante-bellum Germany...thus bearing some causal responsibility for the ill will dispensed to them by their exasperated Roman rulers.

Didn't help that they would riot and revolt at the drop of a hat. According to Gibbon, Judea was not a province one wanted to be governor of, for just that reason.

Kinda puts Pilate's appeasement of the Jewish mob in the Gospels in perspective.

Anonymous said...

@Professor Hale
The ridiculous length of copyright versus patents has always bugged me. A life saving drug (to use a clichéd example) receives shorter protection than the song "Happy Birthday" which remains protected in the United States until 2030.

The "property" of "intellectual property" is a bit of a misnomer as patents and copyrights are temporary monopoly privileges granted by the government. The use of the "property" designation is no doubt part of the apparent aim to make copyrights perpetual (or, perhaps, infinity minus one day to comply with the US Constitution's "for a limited time" clause).

BTW: My view is that equalization of copyrights and patents should be achieved by shortening the copyright period and lot lengthening the patent period.

Justin said...

They've just gone from being a network of small shopkeepers to the heads of all the international banks and Fed Reserve. Just more insulated from the resentment of the locals, that's all.