There are few filmmakers with the same cultural pertinence in contemporary cinema as the Safdie brothers, displaying wild, frenzied electricity in every film they create. Together with their 21st-century masterpiece Uncut Gems and 2017s Good Time, the directors have curated a niche corner of American cinema, inspired by the likes of Martin Scorsese and the Coen brothers.
Born from the stylistic influence of classic American directors with a significant European inspiration galvanising their characters and stories, the Safdie brothers have helped to revitalise the career of Adam Sandler, depicting an eccentric American living on a constant knife-edge in their Netflix classic, Uncut Gems.
Stalking the movements of Sandler’s scatty character Howard Ratner, a jeweller with mounting debts to pay as he risks his life and finances to stay afloat, Uncut Gems pierces the retinas with an adrenaline rush born from the streets of New York. An astonishing kinetic vitality fuels this romp around America’s busiest city, where directors Josh and Benny Safdie perfectly capture the city’s look and feel, all whilst sculpting characters that feel as if they’ve just walked off Diamond Jewelry Way.
Eccentric and frenetic, the brothers themselves are much like their films, excitedly recalling their love of cinema to several publications, as well as their equally colourful stories from the sets of their films. Speaking to the Hollywood Reporter in 2017, Josh Safdie recalled a bizarre story about the actor Robert Pattinson, noting, “So about nine months ago, I was at Robert Pattinson’s house in LA, and I’ve read entire novellas on the shitter, on the can, I love sitting on the toilet, in New York especially it’s like the only private space that you have, so a nice toilet is a very incredible thing”.
Continuing, he added, “So Rob has this incredible Japanese toilet, it’s a luxury toilet, it’s called a Toto, a Nearest Toto, and I used it at his house…that toilet blew my mind…so I was gushing about his toilet and he said, ‘Josh if we get into the competition at the Cannes Film Festival I’ll buy you that toilet’”.
Lo and behold, when the Safdie brothers were nervously awaiting to see if they’d made it into the official competition for Cannes, Josh recalls, “He [Rob] sends me a fucking picture of the toilet”. On the phone to producers of their 2017 film Good Time as they were frantically trying to find out whether they’d made the cut, Josh Safdie stated, “I think we just got into competition, and he’s like how do you know, and I’m like I just received an image of a Toto Neorest Japanese toilet and the only reason Rob would be sending that to me is if we got into competition”.
Such a surreal story could only come from the ever-endearing minds of the Safdie brothers. To see their cinematic world, and their personality embodied, check out the trailer for Good Time from A24 below.