February 24, 2020

Guerilla filmmaker brings verite ‘Pleasure’ to robbery

Josh Safdie is riding high. He has just returned from the south of France, where his first feature, “The Pleasure of Being Robbed,” had the distinction of being the only American entry in the Director’s Fortnight at the Cannes Film Festival. “I asked them out of curiosity what other American films were chosen, and they said that ours was the only American entry,” the 24-year-old filmmaker said.

“I thought maybe this was some political ploy for France to further embarrass America, but actually they thought the movie represented freedom. When we were making it, I never thought that this is going to be a movie about freedom, but they thought the film represented the American independent spirit of yesteryear.”

This was not the director’s first trip to the French Riviera. “I went to Cannes when I was 8 years old, with my father,” Safdie recalled. “We ended up renting a Jet Ski, and we ran out of gas out in the middle of the Mediterranean, so my memory of Cannes was being stuck in the Mediterranean waiting for a boat. And it’s pretty much the same experience going to the festival, being stuck in the middle of this big sea of people waiting for a boat to come. But it was nice.”

“The Pleasure of Being Robbed” follows the daily exploits of Eleonore, a lost young woman who steals compulsively, seemingly without thought or reason. Whether it’s purses, a bag full of kittens, car keys or grapes from a fruit vendor — Eleonore feels compelled to grab it.

The 16 mm film is shot in a cinema verite style, much like the early films of John Cassavetes, and although it seems largely improvised, Safdie was working from a script.