Jan 18, 2020
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‘Uncut Gems’ | Anatomy of a Scene

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“Hello, this is Josh Safdie.” “And this is Benny Safdie.” “We’re the directors of ‘Uncut Gems.’ We’re jumping in here after a good stretch of Howard’s life. But he was just abandoned and ditched at a practice facility, so he’s a little concerned about his gem. And he’s here back with his family, his domicile, basically, his pack. And we’re meeting him in the middle of a status exchange with another Long Island family. What greater setting to be than in a school play, a mandatory attendance thing. And you’re here with people who I think identify setting more than anything.” “O.K.” “What are you going to do for Passover? Is your sister coming?” “Uh, yeah.” “What are doing? Who do you got?” “Watching for LeBron. I got six different people playing six different games.” “Hey, we’re all making salt. Hey! Who tapped me? Who was that?” “I call this the head turning scene because there’s so many head turns back and forth, back and forth, between each person, like perspective switches.” “What’s going on in Howard’s life. And this here, the narrative here, these two gentlemen are a reminder of the bigger threat in Howard’s life, the money that he owes, and figuring out a way to get into it. Overt narrative plotting is always something we feel so self-conscious about, so having it come through a—” “Where you going?” “Daddy’s got to—” ”—game in jest with his kid. The way he bonds with everybody is through jest, and the classic tap shoulder gag actually leads him to the reminder of the things that are lurking behind him.” “And it was on this scene, I remember the AD was trying to have everybody be quiet, and we got very upset, because we wanted everybody to be talking. In this scenario, everybody needed to be loud, because it needed to reflect a real auditorium. And of course, it causes problems later on with editing, but the whole point is to get the performances to be real.” “This action sequence, as we’ll call it, we shot at the end of a 14, 15-hour day. And I kind of like that pressure, because I believe that violence is sloppy. It is unchoreographed. It is matter-of-fact. And that little sequence in the hallway we just saw was that. And here—” “This too.” “This as well.” “One take, remember?” “And his daughter— that’s probably one of the most embarrassing things that can happen to you. Your psychotic, maniacal, loving weird dad is running through—” “I actually love watching certain parts of the movie when you know it was the last thing you filmed on a day. Something that always— that scene in the hallway is one of those.” “This sequence, this exterior sequence here, Darius spent a day or two lighting, I think a day of pre-lighting. And Eric Bogosian, who plays Arno, his brother-in-law, this is his introduction to his character, and to meet him in slow motion where you can’t hear him, I find it to be even more menacing.” “And Eric actually said— because he had done that drive a bunch of times. The first time he pulled up, and he saw Sandler run out of that school wearing loafers, running on that grass, getting tackled by these guys, he says, O.K., this is a different kind of movie. I remember when we did that scene, it was a very complicated choreography with a big cart, and a camera. And you kind of feel the pressure of everybody saying, oh, I wonder how they’re going to do this with non-actors, all this stuff. And on the first take, everybody just nailed it. It was very exciting.”

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