Coffee and Cigarettes Reviews
Shot in crisp black and white, what we get are 11 short scenes featuring 2-3 celebrities in each that consist of them sitting around conversing about various topics while they partake in coffee and cigarettes (or, in a couple of cases, tea...but even then the talk is about coffee).
Some of the scenes are a bit dull, even boring, but thankfully the next one isn't too far off. It starts out a bit slow, but gets better and better as it goes on. I didn't like the Tom Waits and Iggy Pop segment as much as I thought I would, but I loved the Cate Blanchett, White Stripes, and Steve Coogan/Alfred Molina segments. The one with the Lees and Buscemi is good, too.
Even if some of the bits are a bit dull, at least the music throughout is consistently awesome. Some of this is really funny, and maybe even a bit profound at times even. Even if this is uneven, I am a big fan of what this film is about, as I have personally spent countless hours doing the same stuff as the people featured here. I think that's why I wanted to see this to begin with, since that was before I became a confirmed fan of Jarmusch.
All in all, this is a relaxed, cool, and unique little piece of work. My score is admittedly based somewhat on my bias, but that shouldn't deter you from checking this out for yourself.
Likewise with 'somewhere in California'. Iggy and Tom play themselves but you can call Iggy Jim or Jimmy or Iggy or Jiggy if you like! Tom initially opts to call him Iggy but proceeds to refer to him as Jim throughout, and so the off-kilter banter begins. It's an hilarious portrayal of two guys who obviously have a mutual respect for each other's work but don't actually know each other that well. A series of ridiculous conversations and awkward silences ensue with Iggy becoming more and more animated and expressive to over-compensate for Tom's laidback yet defensive attitude. There are some excellent one-liners and it's just great watching these two giants chew the fat, fighting their different corners and trying to keep their cool.
I also thought Cate Blanchett shone in 'cousins', playing both roles as bitter cousin/ insipid famous cousin. It's another awkward, horrible meeting between two people -- one has made it, the other hasn't, and It's plain to see there isn't much love between them. We witness a series of underhand, loaded and nasty comments all in the guise of friendship, a friendship that only exists due to family ties.
Coffee and cigarettes the movie is a bit like coffee and cigarettes the vice: you'll get a buzz that's for sure. It's is an easy watch and each vignette has its qualities but as a whole it's a bit of a cheeky movie. It gets off on the fact that it has all these fab artists starring in it which goes a long way but not far enough. But I can't stress enough that it really is worth getting this movie out for the Coogan/Molina and Pop/Waites vignettes. Both priceless and essential viewing.
Sure this combination is known for the stimulation of an individual, but what is it about the practice that sometimes may bring about issues that you never saw coming your way?
The acting is generally quite good in this film, but I was particularly drawn to the vignette featuring Tom Waits and Iggy Pop. Their natural ability shines with all of their intrepid actions and insights, and their ability to just be themselves which is a quality so vital for an actor regardless of character work, and always much more effective to the viewing eye. Interesting how these two are both musicians, not actors, but excel in the field nevertheless. Just about everything Tom Waits has to offer is valid to film, music, and whatever else he is involved with.
The straight cinematography and continuous shots of the coffee being poured into cups on a smoke covered table with the presence of numerous ashes seems to tie into the various character internal and external conflicts which I found to be interesting as well.
Moving from ponderous, quixotic, to awkward, hauntingly sad, to simply hilarious... this film is almost a wildlife documentary of actors in their natural habitat.
[size=1]At work now. Not working. Sssshhhh!!![/size]
I'm on somewhat of a funnyman/uber-dork streak as of late. One might say I'm "on a roll", but I would disregard such comments and fling a cream pie at that person's face.
Speaking of food, I've been on a culinary frenzy lately. Made some stir fry just before the weekend, and curry the next night. Dicing the veggies was actually quite comedic. With every slice I made, a little piece of vegetable shot off the cutting board and across the kitchen, ricocheting off toasters and cereal boxes and what not. Carrots aren't supposed to bounce, are they? But yeah, the curry was bellissima. I wish I was eating it riiiiight noooow...
More food + dorkiness: I was eating lunch in the parking lot yesterday, sitting in my Buick ("The Golden Ride") with the windows rolled down (I was gonna read later on my lunch break). I was rockin' out to old school Foreigner with a mouthful of sandwich, actually trying to sing through the dense walls of multi-grain bread jammed in my mouth, right as a few co-workers walk by. "Hey Neum". I waved back, not even attempting verbal communication with another human with food blocking my words. I kinda turned down the radio as they meandered through the cars and towards the office. Then, slowly, I turned the radio back up, and continued my rocking out. Heh.
Today even, I found myself with piece of cornbread in my hand and a barbaric urge to maul it (you know life is treating you well when you find yourself in such situations). Well, being the dastardly food torturer that I am, I decided to make a "character" out of my cornbread. A minute later, I've got a co-worker cracking up to "Steve the Cornbread", my tasty little cornbread friend with honey drooling from its makeshift lips (we were in the breakroom). Steve would talk of his lost family, stuck in a glass pan in a distant kitchen, the memory coated in horror. His therapist told him that his recurring nightmares of [i]the spatula [/i]were likely a result of abuse while young. And probably drugs in adolescence. Then Steve grew silent and introspective, and my co-worker had to go, ya know, work. And then...I lost myself in space and time. I was wrapped in a golden warm fluff, yellows and light browns twirling in knots, porous and aromic with a flavor I dare not describe. Next thing I knew, I had crumb-coated honey around my mouth, looking for a napkin. I wonder whatever happened to Steve.
Other stuff's been goin' on too, but I dare not describe.
Jim Jarmusch's "Coffee and Cigarettes" will either engage or flat-out bore you. I suppose the same could go for the majority of the director's other films, but I find this one to be especially divisive. I know a good number of people who would probably hate it if they saw it; but I also know those who might enjoy its relaxing cinematic approach. It's a simple film, really; enhanced by Jarmuch's signature eye for humane dialogue as well as his quirky direction. It's far from one of his best films, but I'll be damned if it doesn't impress the fans with its wit, dry sense of humor, and allure.
All I can tell you is that when approaching this film, you should probably know that it's all in the title. This is a film involving 11 random vignettes; connected not by characters or sometimes even location, but by the consumption of coffee and smoking of cigarettes, the two of which often come packaged together if in use at all.
Would there be much of a point in me describing each separate scenario? Personal answers to that question aside, I think we can all at least somewhat agree that no, there isn't much of a point at all in me doing that. Instead, I think I'll point out the vignettes that stood out the most to me; the ones that shine amongst the rest. Not all of the film's segments are created equal; some are better than others, while some are filled with the kind of essential simple pleasures that can elevate a perfectly un-complicated story and cast of two individuals to new heights.
I feel the need to mention the segment that opens the film - titled "Strange to Meet You" and originally filmed in 1986 - because it gives Jarmusch's anthology picture a rather grand kick-start. In short, I guess it gives us a basic and general idea of what's to come. The segment itself features Roberto Benigni and Steven Wright sitting down in a restaurant somewhere and having a nice, pleasant chat about the titular substances. There isn't much more to it than that; other than the fact that Benigni appears to be more lost in his addictions than Wright, who arrives not too far down the road.
Next on my short list of honorable mentions comes a wonderful segment that involves Jack and Meg White (of The White Stripes, one of my all-time favorite bands) working, narratively, with the pretense that the two are siblings (which they aren't; as you should know). Jack wants desperately to show Meg his Tesla Coil; of which the latter does not initially seem to care much about. The two seem uneasy; but I suppose that's all a part of the plan.
The final segment that I shall mention is the one titled "Cousins?" - in which Alfred Molina and Steve Coogan talk about showbiz, with Molina eventually coming to the surprise revelation that he and Steve are related by blood. Cousins, Molina says, and the question mark that accompanies the title is absolutely necessary.
"Coffee and Cigarettes" is joyfully experimental. Filmed in glorious black-and-white; this talky feature is a treat for the eyes and the mind. Jarmusch makes it clear that this is his film; certain members of the cast happen to be famous musicians (in particular, Tom Waits and Iggy Pop both make separate appearances, but in the same segment), there are world-renown artists on display, and the narrative is non-linear; if the film can be said to have a narrative at all. The film may not be perfect, but it offers up something different, and that's all I ask for out of independent cinema. "Coffee and Cigarettes" is a minor - but welcome and relaxing - piece of humanistic escapism.