“They say you can see the whole universe in opals.” — Howard Ratner
“I gotta tell ya,” says Howard. “I’m in a bit of a rush.”
When we meet the 48-year-old jeweller (Adam Sandler) working in Manhattan’s Diamond District in the cacophonous cosmos-to-colon opening to Josh and Benny Safdie’s Uncut Gems he is under a lot of stress. Unfortunately, with these words, he has misjudged his audience and the conversation quickly goes south, setting off a wild chain of events.
But the film’s story really begins with an emergency at a mine in Ethiopia. After an injured worker is carried away, two others uncover a large hunk of opal. They whisper to each other, mesmerized by its beauty and power, as the camera comes ever closer until it penetrates the gem, sliding through its solid mass into a psychedelic dream of shifting colours and nebulous shapes created by visual effects studio Brainstorm Digital. Beams of light pierce vibrant blue walls and red mists and the letters of “Uncut Gems” fly in, translucent as glass, forming the film’s title. The title typography, created by industry veteran Randy Balsmeyer’s Big Film Design, is encased in a tight rounded box that gleams before gliding out of view. The camera spins as we travel ever deeper, the walls taking on a warm, fleshy hue. Drops of moisture line the surfaces as we plunge into what is now clearly something alive, something human. We are expelled from Howard’s colon through a digital screen and then dumped into his mess of erratic deals and dizzying errands.
“I almost had a panic attack in the office but I really loved it,” said Hassan Rahim, designer of the film’s credits typography, when he saw the opening scene, echoing many viewers’ reactions. With nods to The Exorcist, Snatch, and the films of John Carpenter, Robert Altman, and Charles and Ray Eames, the opening is a whirlwind of influences and energy, overlapping dialogue and vibrant characters.
And the effect of all of this? Well, it’s a bit of a rush.
Hi Josh, thanks so much for your time. When I first saw Uncut Gems in theatres, I immediately had so many questions for you, so this is a treat.
Josh Safdie: Thank you for your interest! I was just explaining to my producer that I’ve been a very big fan of this website for a long time so it’s an honour to be included. I find the art of the title [laughs], no pun…