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+ written by: Jim Jarmusch
Starring: Roberto Benigni, Steven Wright, Steve Buscemi, Iggy
Pop, Tom Waits, Cate Blanchett, Steve Coogan, Alfred Molina, RZA,
Look for it at the video store under: comedy, drama
Watch it when you’re in the mood for
5 the rating system
Fun factor: /5
Coffee and Cigarettes consists of a series of black-and-white
shorts centering around casual conversations. The conversations take
place in coffee shops and cafes, bars and even a fancy hotel, in random
places all across America. Loquacious Italian comedian Roberto Benigni
sits down for some coffee with laconic American comedian Steven Wright,
with each seemingly thinking and talking on separate tracks, never able
to get on the same page and understand one another. In a slightly seedy
California bar, Iggy Pop is about to meet Tom Waits for the first time;
when Waits shows up, he proceeds to toy with the overly earnest Pop.
Also in California, Alfred Molina excitedly informs a thoroughly
disinterested Steve Coogan that they're actually long-lost cousins.
Coogan barely bothers to hide the fact that he doesn't find Molina
sufficiently famous to bother getting to know -- until Molina gets a
call from Spike Jonze, and Coogan suddenly perks up. Very famous Cate
Blanchett, meanwhile, tries her best to squeeze in some quality time
with her rather rough-edged cousin Shelley (Blanchett again, in a nifty
double role), ducking out from between interviews with the press in a
sincere but unsuccessful effort to play catch-up. In these and several
other vignettes, musicians, comedians, actors and other quirky
characters try (and mostly fail) to connect as they share mundane
conversation over those favorite time-killers, coffee and cigarettes.
Featuring a who's who of indie coolness in its cast, Coffee and
Cigarettes could have been too hip for its own good. But there's
such a nice, easy rhythm to this series of vignettes, a stripped-down
simplicity to the way scenes are shot, that you never get the sense that
writer-director Jim Jarmusch is taking any of it too seriously.
Conversations unfold weirdly but kind of naturally; nothing feels
scripted to make some heavy-handed, overarching point. Taken as a whole,
the vignettes seem to be saying something about how verbal
communications so often fail to get across anything real or meaningful.
But mostly, these shorts are just funny, poking gentle fun at celebrity
even as it allows its (largely) celebrity cast to show that they're just
regular folks at heart. True, some of the sections work better than
others -- a very wooden segment featuring Jack and Meg White debating
pointlessly about a Tesla coil falls completely flat, all the more so
because the segment comes right after Cate Blanchett's very funny,
brilliantly-acted segment in which she plays both herself and a
character who's supposed to be her cousin. But there are so many great,
truly inspired pairings scattered throughout Coffee and Cigarettes
that they more than make up for the less interesting conversations (best
of all, since each segment is so short, we're at least spared having to
sit too long through any dull bits). If you're at all curious about what
the RZA and the GZA (of Wu-Tang Clan fame) might talk about if they
happened to bump into Bill Murray -- and you should be, as it's very
amusing stuff indeed -- you'll have a good time watching Jarmusch's
witty, unpretentious little film. —reviewed
by Yee-Fan Sun
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