Coffee and Cigarettes is breezy collection of eleven short films. These vignettes bring together notable talents, from the fields of comedy, music, and acting, united by their indulgence in the vices laid out in the title. While it often feels improvisational, these encounters are largely scripted, using interesting combinations of characters to discuss notable topics, weird predilections, or veer off into more abstract areas.
As a series of skits, it’s imbued with an art house feel, reinforced by it’s black and white aesthetic. Installations where personalities are playing off each other, bantering and in some cases sparring with each other. Some of the combinations are more forgettable than others, the ones that stand out are largely due to the sheer presence of notable talent within them or slightly more outlandish content.
Of the standouts, the first is Somewhere in California, a curiously awkward skit with an enthused Iggy Pop meeting a nonplussed Tom Waits, lighting up to celebrate the fact that they’ve given up smoking. Cousins encapsulates the bewildering talents of Cate Blanchett as she playing herself and a fictitious cousin she is catching up with years apart, old animosities poking through. Twins features Joie Lee and Cinquee Lee as bickering siblings and a waiter, played by Steve Buscemi, who elaborates on his own conspiracy theory about Elvis Presley having an evil twin. You can also watch The White Stripes discussing the talents and achievements of inventor Nikola Tesla in Jack Shows Meg His Tesla Coil. or Delirium is perhaps the breeziest entry, verging on an improvised feel, with Bill Murray and Wu-Tang Clan rappers GZA and RZA talking about how to handle smokers cough.
There are highs and lows amongst the collection. But the common themes of indulgence in these vices connect the eleven vignettes. With this, there’s a relaxed, thereputic feel. People immersed in these pleasures, an indulgence framing them in a way to open them up, relax and let thoughts and words flow.
The picture quality is good. Some of the vignettes are of better quality than others, likely due to the fact that some were filmed at different times to the others. Strange to Meet Yo for instance was filmed in 1986 whereas Somewhere in California was made in 1993. The dip in quality actually adds to the charm, the black and white embracing it like a distinguished amount of wear and tear.
Special features are limited to a trailer and an interview with actor Taylor Mead. It’s a somewhat jumbled assembly of some old interview footage where he reflects on how Jarmusch handled him on set, his take on the film, and also compliments some of the other cast members including Cate Blanchette and Bill Murray.
THE BOTTOM LINE
Coffee and Cigarettes is very much a character piece, and that’s the key to it’s appeal. Losing yourself in the banter between this assortment of characters Jarmushch has assembled. The topics are varied, as are the conversations, at times awkward, others unfolding with a natural ease. This release doesn’t offer much in the way of extras but is a great way to check out this charming oddity.
Coffee and Cigarettes is available from Olive Films from November 15th.
Originally published at old.cinapse.co on November 21, 2016.