A roller-coaster, a time bomb, a heart-attack—you pick the analogy— the Safdie brothers have confirmed their arrival as major auteurs, in a big way, with Uncut Gems. Their specific brand of narrative propulsion is their directorial trademark
It’s not even really a story- it’s a scenario—the Safdie’s wind it up and let it go— aided by the proclivity of claustrophobic close-ups, overlapping (and loud) dialogue, New York City, savage selfishness
The film lacks the level of dedication to the neons and specific color palate in Good Time
ambient noise a character in the film, overlapping dialogue like Altman, but at a crazy high volume, shouting, buzzers going off, street noise, high anxiety
Alexander Mackendrick’s 1957 film The Smell of Success seems like an appropriate precursor in a lot of ways- dark, juggling act
The Daniel Lopatin score is a wow— ballsy—very different — I admired his work on Good Time as well which was more John Carpenter-grindhouse—this is a little more retro melodic almost Vangelis-like—I do like that this score makes it clear that the Safdie’s were in clear creative control of this project— I think with any other studio or meddling producer they insist on something else.
Sandler’s achievement is among the best for an actor or actress in 2019. He’s a tornado– destructive, compulsive– It’s worth a debate whether this or 2002’s Punch-Drunk Love is Sandler’s best and I consider that an incredible compliment
The NYC diamond district is a character in the film, like Howard Ratner (Sandler, and a great name), loud, abrasive—the casino, the nightclub (a gorgeous sequence at 58 minutes of the red neon at the club)
Abel Ferrara’s Bad Lieutenant (1992) certainly feels like a companion piece (though I can’t imagine anyone is such a masochist (or have the endurance) they’d watching them together in a double-feature—haha). Going way back how about von Stroheim’s Greed? Huston’s The Treasure of the Sierra Madre? Gollum’s obsession with the precious in LOTR? After Hours from Scorsese is another for sure- NYC, compressed time, a labyrinth.
The opening and closing bookends are tremendous. We start with a man who has a leg compound fracture (all in the name of greed) – then the camera dives into the opal at a molecular level like Fincher’s Fight Club — The Safdie’s transition to Howard’s colonoscopy and then at the very end of the film we mirror the opal molecular examination with his bullet wound
A Highly Recommend/ Must See border film – a great triumph