Monday, May 01, 2006

Coffee and Cigarettes

In keeping with our smoking theme, and in light of our upcoming discussion of Mystery Train this week, last night I saw Jim Jarmusch's episode film Coffee and Cigarettes. I'm a sucker for Jarmusch's singular style, so I was forgiving when the first sketch with Roberto Benigni and Steven Wright sitting in a cafe, behaving strangely and musing to the point of idiocy about coffee and cigarettes left me kinda cold and detached. But by the time I got to the sequence with Iggy Pop and Tom Waits (two of rock's most interesting personalities), I was questioning why I should care what was going on. That's when I understood the point, I suppose. This film isn't so much about "anything" per se, as much as it's about the socio-cultural phenomena surrounding what really happens at a table at a coffee shop when we sit down (no matter who we are) and have a cup and a smoke. Of course, you and I can go to our favourite bean shop and have our series of vignettes, but I doubt that they would leave you as dissatisfied as this slight film. I mean, for all the star power and art house clout this picture throws around, I expected more.

I question what made Jarmusch feel so inclined to take the original 3 episodes of this film (shot in black and white in the mid to late 80's), and create several complementary pieces. Granted, in light of Mystery Train, we probably should see the 1989 installment, "Memphis Version," which stars an brilliantly ignorant (imagine that!) Steve Buscemi, Joie Lee, and Cinqué Lee (who star in said film), if for nothing other than the discussion of Elvis and race is more direct and pointed than the whole of Mystery Train does overtly. On the other hand, there are a few scattered moments of grace here: Cate Blanchett shows her ability to tackle a dual role with her opposite "cousin", and the sketch with Bill Murray alongside GZA and RZA (members of the Wu-Tang Clan), is rich and intelligent. Unless you're already sensitive to Jarmusch, and perhaps curious about the outstanding cast (even if they're doing little to nothing), you may want to give this one a pass.

2 1/2 out of 5 stars


Post a Comment

<< Home