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(Credit: JEONJU Intl. Film Festival)

Film

The movie that the Safdie brothers called "an utter masterpiece"

@Russellisation

The success of the 2019 movie Uncut Gems was a significant moment across the cinema industry for more reasons than one. Demonstrating Netflix were serious awards contenders, dedicated to elevating artistic voices, the movie reminded audiences of why Adam Sandler should be considered a modern great and also threw Josh and Benny Safdie into the limelight of popular art cinema. 

The Safdie brothers, the directors behind 2017s Good Time with Robert Pattinson and Uncut Gems, are among the most important working filmmakers working today, having established a frenetic, American identity illustrated in each of their movies. Born from the stylistic influence of classic American directors Martin Scorsese and the Coen brothers, with a significant European inspiration galvanising their characters and stories, the duo have a pioneering style that has situated them at the very forefront of the industry. 

Speaking to Rotten Tomatoes about some of their most significant influences, the brothers pointed to the likes of Vittorio De Sica’s Bicycle Thieves, 2001: A Space Odyssey by Stanley Kubrick and Robert Altman’s Nashville, among many others. Though, whilst Josh and Benny hold a genuine appreciation for each of these aforementioned films, they don’t compare to the one Italian film they consider to be a “masterpiece”. 

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Directed by Abbas Kiarostami, the 1990 drama Close-Up is the one movie that inspires the brothers more than any others, causing a visceral reaction for Josh Safdie in particular. 

“The way that that film blends fiction and reality, it is a north star for me,” Josh told the publication, explaining how the filmmaker made the movie about a true story of an Iranian director who scammed a family out of their money, casting each person in his fictional retelling of events. 

Explaining his love of the film, Josh Safdie adds: “He used real life as a script, and you’re watching the real players re-enact something that happened recently in their life, and the result is magical. The result is something that only film can give you. It makes you question your own self. It makes you question, what is a personality? It makes you question empathy”. 

A complicated movie from one of Iran’s greatest ever filmmakers who also released the celebrated films Where Is the Friend’s House? and Taste of Cherry, the impact of Kiarostami’s film on the brothers’ career has been extraordinary. 

Having spoken in several interviews about the film, the Safdie’s also told Criterion, “Close-up is an utter masterpiece,” even going so far as to add some hyperbole to the interview by stating, “I didn’t feel the need to even bother writing about it. Like God,” making reference to his lack of paragraph about the movie itself. 

Whilst the Safdie brothers have no film currently in production, Benny Safie has taken to acting, having just appeared in the Disney series Obi-Wan Kenobi with Ewan McGregor as well as being added to the cast of Christopher Nolan’s upcoming WWII drama Oppenheimer.

Take a look at the film the brothers call a “masterpiece”, below.