Internationally acclaimed novelist Paul Auster ("New York Trilogy", "The Book of Illusions", "Man in the Dark") explores the art of writing in the darkly comical THE INNER LIFE OF MARTIN ... See full summary »
Wayne Wang's follow-up movie to Smoke presents a series of improvisational situations strung together to form a pastiche of Brooklyn's diverse ethnicity, offbeat humor, and essential ... See full summary »
Ruby, a young woman, arrives in a Florida resort town during the off season to make a fresh start. She gets work as a sales clerk in a souvineer shop run by Mildred Chambers. She dates, and... See full summary »
Chris is young idealistic cop who falls in love and gets married to Pam, a beautiful but emotionally unstable woman who suffers from alcoholism and drug addiction. While Chris is trying ... See full summary »
In San Francisco, an immigrant Chinese widow welcomes the new year with some unhappiness: she's 62 now, she wants to make a trip to China to pay last respects to her ancestors, a fortune ... See full summary »
The plot of this movie, like smoke itself, drifts and swirls ethereally. Characters and subplots are deftly woven into a tapestry of stories and pictures which only slowly emerges to our view. This film tries to convince us that reality doesn't matter so much as aesthetic satisfaction. In Auggie's New York smoke shop, day by day passes, seemingly unchanging until he teaches us to notice the little details of life. Paul Benjamin, a disheartened and broken writer, has a brush with death that is pivotal and sets up an unlikely series of events that afford him a novel glimpse into the life on the street which he saw, but did not truly perceive, every day. Finally, it's Auggie's turn to spin a tale.... Written by
Tad Dibbern <DIBBERN_D@a1.mscf.upenn.edu>
The story that William Hurt's character tells about the son who found his dead father's body frozen on a mountain is the same story that Paul Auster uses in his novel, "The New York Trilogy". See more »
When Thomas Cole knocks on the door of Paul Benjamin's apartment on his first visit, Paul goes to answers the door without a cigarette. However, when he opens the door a lit cigarette appears in his mouth. See more »
"It's such a sad old feeling, the fields are soft and green, it's memories that I'm stealing, but you're innocent when you dream, when you dream, you're innocent when you dream" ---Tom Waits
Smoke is a very difficult film to describe because it does not unfold with a coherent narrative, but rather with slice-of-life vignettes about chance, communication, and inter-connectedness. Author Paul Auster and director Wayne Wang (The Joy Luck Club) worked on the story for years before it reached the screen and the collaboration produces a highly literate, novelistic cinema that is divided into separate chapters, each elaborating a different character. I have seen this small masterpiece many times, but I keep watching it because I love its celebration of the simple pleasures of life: friendships, good conversation, and, of course, smoking a good cigar. Smoke is not a complex or experimental film, just a beautiful and simple delineation of humanity.
Harvey Keitel plays Auggie Wren, the owner of a small cigar store in Brooklyn. An amateur photographer as well as a raconteur of tall tales, Auggie has taken one photograph a day from the street corner outside his store every day for the past 14 years. "People say you have to travel to see the world,'' Auggie says. "Sometimes I think that if you just stay in one place and keep your eyes open, you're going to see just about all that you can handle.'' When a friend comments that all the snapshots look alike, Auggie points out the differences: the light, the season, and the look on people's faces. It's all a matter of slowing down, Auggie says, being in present time, and observing what is in front of you.
One of the store's regular customers is writer Paul Benjamin (William Hurt) who hasn't published a novel since his wife died a few years ago in an incident of street violence. When a young Black man, Rashid Cole, (Harold Perrineau Jr.) saves Paul's life by pulling him away from on an oncoming car, Paul offers him a place to sleep. The lives of the two become intertwined in the young man's encounter with some robbers and in his search for his father, brilliantly played by Forrest Whitaker. When Auggie's former lover, Ruby (Stockard Channing), shows up, she tells Auggie he has a pregnant daughter (Ashley Judd) that now needs his help. These incidents come together in a powerful, fully realized conclusion.
Although Smoke has its moments of high drama, it is mostly a low-key, slice-of-life type of film that depicts events in life as happening for a purpose, not as random or chance occurrences. The characters are not "movie colorful", but ordinary down-to-earth people brought to realization by a flawless ensemble cast. The film reaches a sublime conclusion in a tender Christmas story narrated by Keitel and supported by Tom Waits' haunting song "Innocent When You Dream". Everyone ends up in a better place than when they started, including myself as viewer.
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