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A comic series of short vignettes built on one another to create a cumulative effect, as the characters discuss things as diverse as caffeine popsicles, Paris in the '20s, and the use of nicotine as an insecticide--all the while sitting around sipping coffee and smoking cigarettes. As director Jim Jarmusch delves into the normal pace of our world from an extraordinary angle, he shows just how absorbing the obsessions, joys and addictions of life can be, if truly observed. Written by
Sujit R. Varma
This is a collection of 11 short stories directed by indie stalwart Jim Jarmusch ("Strangers in Paradise", "Ghost Dog: The Way Of The Samurai") that have been filmed over the last 18 years, all of which involve two or more characters simply sitting at a table, conversing over...yep, coffee and cigarettes.
In the hands of a lesser director that might be extremely boring, but Jarmusch is a master of subtle understatement and great deadpan humor. This may be one of the funniest movies you've ever seen in which no one cracks a smile.
Almost all the actors play themselves, which adds a meta-theatrical, slightly surreal touch to it all.
Among my favorite stories are one in which an overly eager Alfred Molina has a surprise in store for coolly arrogant fellow actor Steve Coogan and a great one in which Cate Blanchett plays both herself and her jealous cousin Shelby. Then there's the one where Tom Waits and Iggy Pop meet in a dive bar to discuss things and have a smoke (to celebrate quitting smoking), Jack and Meg White of the White Stripes experimenting with a Tesla coil, and in the funniest casting, RZA and GZA of the Wu-Tang Clan sharing some downtime with, of all people, Bill Murray. I also like the one with Spike Lee's twin siblings, Joie and Cinque, dealing with an invasive waiter (a hilarious Steve Buscemi). Almost all the stories are excellent, but there are three that are very forgettable and pretty unnecessary, and they're all in a row, which disrupts the flow of the film. If those three had been taken out, "Coffee and Cigarettes" would be just about perfect, but it's still really good. And those three are out of the way in the first half, anyway.
For the first hour the movie feels mainly just like fun. Straight-faced, deadpan, B&W comedy just like "Strangers In Paradise". But as it goes on, and strange connections are made between the stories, it seems to have a sudden dreamlike depth to it.
The final story in particular, in which two old men in a dark room (Bill Rice and Taylor Mead) discuss life while on a coffee break that feels like it'll last forever, has a distinct "Waiting For Godot" feel and ends the movie on a perfect note of haunting, existential sadness.
It was at that point that I realized I hadn't just watched a string of jokey short stories, but a string of jokey short stories that say a lot about human nature and life in general.
And if that's not enough to interest you, how often do you get to see Tom Waits and Iggy Pop have a conversation? Or RZA, GZA, and Bill Murray?
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