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Uncut Gems lensed by Darius Khondji


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Who says you can't shoot a dark, stylish, modern film on 35mm? 

Uncut Gems is Darius Khondji's latest fare and boy is it frenetic. The story is about a loser jeweler (Adam Sandler) in New York who owes literally everyone money, including some nasty family members who have hired goons to keep tabs on him. Every single time he has money to pay people, he blows it on something stupid and winds up getting himself into more debt and eventually more trouble. He purchases a gemstone from Africa that has the eye of a famous basketball player and that sets in motion the main arc of the story. One boneheaded move after another and he finally reaches a point of no return unless one final bet goes right. 

I've always liked Khondji's work and shooting 35mm was pretty cool on this show. He used a very frenetic style and camera that kept moving. Either with steadicam or handheld rigs, it was constantly moving. This helps greatly with the story, which never lets down, it's constantly moving forward. The cinematography mixed with Sandlers constant talking and fast cutting practice, makes the film almost dizzying to watch. Those moments of exposition, simply don't exist. You're constantly with the characters, right over their shoulder or in their face, with the occasional few seconds of rest, before the next storm. This is the filmmakers intent and much like Wolf of Wall street, the pacing never lets up, even until the last frame. 

I have to say the cinematography worked well with the story. It's not a style I like myself, I prefer medium shots over neck and top of head shots. Still, for what the filmmakers were going for it did work. I love Khondji's lighting style, there were moments of simplicity in the lighting that struck me as so realistic, it almost looked like it was shot digitally. I'm not to sure of the technical aspects of the film, but there were moments that did seem like he pushed a stop or so in some of the night cinematography. He shot with the Arricam's from Panavsion and C/E series anamorphics. It has this 1990's look to it, stretched faces a bit, but very few lens flares. 

For us "film" guys out there, it maybe worth watching this movie because there are some neat things he did that are worth examining. Lots of natural light in all conditions. Few sets that were lit very naturally. A few practical locations that looked great as well. I loved some of the steadicam shots that whizzed around to reveal characters, it was all very well done. My only gripe is that I really didn't care for Sandlers performance, it was over the top and lacking the level of stress that was necessary. Rumor has it Jonah Hill was going to play the role before Sandler became available. I think Hill would have done a better job, I just didn't like Sandler at all. I also didn't much care for the constant bombardment of information, I would have slowed the film down and given a moment for Sandler to cry or at least seem like he had some emotion over his life literally falling apart. It's just an unbelievable character that is further made more unbelievable by his stupidity and without really going into his past to explain how he became so stupid. 

Over-all, the only thing to take home was the cinematography and the watchable story. At least it was entertaining and visually interesting. 

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. I am intrigued that Adam Sandler is doing a "straight" role rather than his usual schtick. I haven't seen it yet, but did see the trailer and not surprised at all that 35mm was used since the Safdie brothers made it. Good Time looks similar and was as wonderful film, shot in 2 perf. 

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I just watched it yesterday.

Very interesting
Hyper, non-resting , nerving....

As much the character was annoying, with his behavior at times, all in all it was a good film.
Well done. I liked Sandler. Good job.

I thought it was shot digital.
Surprised to read here it was film.

However, i think i saw in one occasion during a fast pan or a bus/vehicle passing by some rolling shutter skewing...  :)



 

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  • 3 weeks later...
On 1/9/2020 at 2:25 PM, charles pappas said:

A whole lot of life left in those strips of celluloid.

Btw, the anyone know offhand what that "light  - ???" system from ??? Camera is that was thanked in the end credits? I spent a few minutes on google and didn't find it.

It's the Preston Light Ranger, a focus assist tool.

Deadline interview with Darius Khondji

NoFilm School interview with Khondji

Edited by Ravi Kiran
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  • 3 weeks later...
  • Sustaining Member

MASTERPIECE OF CINEMA wow what a film.....absolute film of the year no doubt about it......and it LOOKS like a proper film.....beautiful 35mm wow.....what an experience to see this.....for me Sandler edges out Joaquín Phoenix as best actor of the year....

Edited by Stephen Perera
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  • 2 weeks later...
  • Sustaining Member

Great film! Unlike others here I think Sandler did a great job, the intensity of the performance and the intensity of the film seemed to drive each other along very nicely. 

The cinematography too, felt perfectly matched to the narrative.

To me, the film felt like watching a tense game of basketball. I could feel that same strange sense of self-aware, but intense engagement in each player's decisions - it was anxiety-inducing, but in the way that good films are.

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  • 2 weeks later...
  • Sustaining Member

Darius has himself mentioned that he gets bored with beautiful shots, so he's always interesting to watch. He serves story these days. I get a sense that a lot of people want him to replicate the groundbreaking work he had when he did Seven and Delicatessen etc, but he wants to move forward. I respect that and can feel the same thing many times. "Beautiful cinematography" can be a trap. I thought Uncut Gems was good. Lighting is very real, even "ugly" at times, but it feels absolutely right for film. I love the long lens stuff. Nice to see after so much wide stuff the last decade.

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