The Safdies’ feature debut might not be a substantial piece of work but it is an uncut gem—rough and raw, yet possessing the heart of a passionate storyteller with a 16mm camera.
Dir. Josh Safdie
2008 | USA | Drama | 68 mins | 1.66:1 | English
Not rated – likely to be NC16 for some coarse language
Cast: Eleonore Hendricks, Josh Safdie
Plot: A curious and lost Eleonore looks for something everywhere, even in the bags of strangers who find themselves sadly smiling only well after she’s left their lives.
Awards: Nom. for Camera d’Or & Official Selection – Directors’ Fortnight (Cannes)
International Sales: Visit Films
Subject Matter: Moderate
Narrative Style: Straightforward
Audience Type: Slightly Arthouse
There is something about the Safdies’ feature debut that continues to endear. Perhaps it is their inspiring DIY indie spirit, or that it is a great example of how simple stories can be told with minimal fuss.
Shot in the streets of New York City, the film could have been directed by, say, a young Martin Scorsese if he had been born 40 years later.
It shares the same spirit of the early Scorsese shorts—rough and raw, yet possessing the heart of a passionate storyteller with a 16mm camera. In other words, it is an uncut gem.
Running a little longer than an hour, The Pleasure of Being Robbed may not be regarded as a substantial piece of work by any measure, but it delivers what it has set out to do, which is to privilege the journey of the protagonist rather than whatever destination she reaches at the end of the film.
A road movie of sorts, we follow Eleonore, a young kleptomaniac who has a chance encounter with a friend named Josh (the director himself) who teaches her how to drive a (stolen) car.
There is natural tension as to whether they would become lovers, but while suggestive of that possible direction, the film doesn’t promise us anything.
And I think this is why it feels refreshing—it’s not an unpredictable film but it sees spontaneity as its raison d’etre and charms its way out of what could have been a meandering narrative.
Benny Safdie is on editing and sound duties here, and do look out for a fun if absurd sequence at the zoo. It is heartening to see that the Safdies’ ‘street spirit’ had never left them from the get-go, and still strongly permeating in their latest films such as Good Time (2017) and Uncut Gems (2018).