The true pleasure of watching a filmmaker’s favorites is spotting influence. Artists, for all their daring and transgression, can only go so far escaping this, and if you find the exact right title it’s like watching them being born in the corner of the frame. (Speaking metaphorically.) It might take only this 75-second clip from The Gods of Times Square to find Josh Safdie’s sensibility––when, nine seconds in, we meet a “Jew for Jesus” who’d been “grafted in by the Holy Spirit” that oh-my-God-where-could-they-have-found-this-person sensation I get from Heaven Knows What, Good Time, and Uncut Gems kicked in, except here it’s scarier for being all too real.
We’re proud to debut said clip––courtesy Safdie’s Elara Pictures outfit and Jake Perlin’s The Film Desk––as Richard Sandler’s 1999 documentary begins a week-long run at New York’s Roxy Cinema. You can find it below, along with a quote from the two filmmakers and portrait of Sandler.
Josh Safdie says:
“Once upon a time, town squares were comment sections, where people brave enough to shout their opinions did it face to face. There is no stronger belief than one’s faith, and what used to be Times Square was a town square on steroids. As the 20th century came to an end, we entered the corporatized Y2K age. Spirituality seemed an essential grounding force, something to unify us. But whose God is supreme? What is God? What is God’s place in the digital age? When Disney invaded Times Square it went up against the smut. It was a magnet for all things good and bad. It was hell with attractions. I still secretly wished to be yelled at whenever I enter Times Square…”