Roberto Benigni, Steven Wright, Cate Blanchett, Iggy Pop, Meg White, Jack White, Bill Murray, Tom Waits, Alfred Molina, Steve Coogan, RZA, GZA, Steve Buscemi
WRITTEN AND DIRECTED BY
DISTRIBUTED BY United Artists
"Coffee and Cigarettes" Review
Fans of Jim Jarmusch will love this most recent film largely assembled over the last several years and featuring a series of 11 vignettes of 2 or 3 individuals having casual conversation over coffee and cigarettes. In typical Jarmusch fashion, the film is shot in black and white...adding to the simplicity and normalcy of the film. Often quite funny, occasionally insightful but nearly always honest this film features an eclectic cast...both those who have worked with Jarmusch before and those we simply wouldn't expect in this sort of fare.
As is nearly always the case with movies based on a series of sketches, some of these work better than others. Highlights for me include the following:
The film starts off with a quirky, hilarious piece featuring the low energy, dry comic Steven Wright and Italian ball of energy director Roberto Benigni. There is a playfulness and innocence here that is a wonderful way to start the film, and the goofy ending to this brief scene is bound to bring a chuckle.
Jack and Meg White, of the White Stripes, in a rather brief but unexpectedly tender scene that confirms for me the acting chops that Jack White displayed in "Cold Mountain."
Cate Blanchett carries a double role as herself and her cousin in a scene that both celebrates her fame and pokes fun at it. Its quiet insight stayed with me long after the film had ended.
Alfred Molina and Steve Coogan play wonderfully off each other in a scene in which Molina meets Coogan to share his discovery that they are, in fact, distant cousins. Molina's joy is met by skepticism and dismissal by Coogan, until the tables are unexpectedly turned.
Music legends Tom Waits and Iggy Pop share a scene with a passive aggressive awkwardness of two music greats awkwardly meeting each other and challenged to find common ground.
Perhaps the most brilliant sketch features Bill Murray along with RZA and GZA of Wu-Tang Clan. The scene is hilarious and a boost of energy in a largely quiet, almost somber film.
Oddly, the scene that worked least for me involved one of my favorite actors, Steve Buscemi. His role as a Memphis waiter with peculiar ideas around Elvis (opposite Cinque Lee and Joie Lee) just never resonates as real in a film that feels authentic in every other moment.
Other performances include the likes of Joseph Rigano, Vinny Vella Jr. and Sr., Renee French and others.
Jarmusch, who also wrote the script, clearly allowed some improvisation here and it adds beautifully to the authenticity and spontaneity of the performances.
Jarmusch is definitely an acquired taste, but his true fans will find this collection a joy and fans of film who long for the simplicity of true filmmaking and the lost art of conversation should definitely catch this film if it arrives in your town.