As the extremely withdrawn Don Johnston is dumped by his latest woman, he receives an anonymous letter from a former lover informing him that he has a son who may be looking for him. A freelance sleuth neighbor moves Don to embark on a cross-country search for his old flames in search of answers.
Two innocent people are arrested. An interesting third person, with broken English, joins them in their cell. On his idea, they decide to escape from the prison. Their journey is the rest of the movie.
In a vignette called "Strange to meet you," Roberto sits at a small table in a coffee bar. Five cups of coffee and two ashtrays are in front of him; he drinks and smokes. Steven joins him. ... See full summary »
This shortcut repeats the structure of Coffee and Cigarettes. This time, Iggy Pop and Tom Waits meet in a bar. But, again, we don't know why they agreed to do that in the first place, ... See full summary »
Eleven separate vignettes are presented. In each, celebrities, playing semi-fictionalized versions of themselves (with the exception of the characters of various wait staff, and one actor playing a lookalike cousin of herself), meet in a food service establishment with coffee/tea and cigarettes involved. Beyond the topic of discussion that brought them together, they often talk directly about coffee and cigarettes, more often that coffee and cigarettes, and by association caffeine and nicotine, are not healthy, especially if they are the only things constituting lunch. Other recurring themes include the Lee family, cousinhood, celebrity worship, the connection between the medical and musical careers, and Nikola Tesla's belief that the Earth is a conductor of acoustic resonance. In all cases, the coming together for coffee/tea and smokes acts as a bridge to overcome disagreements, and/or makes uncomfortable situations less uncomfortable.Written by
It's just... funny, don't yah think, that when you can't afford something, it's like *really expensive* but then when you can afford it, it's like, free? It's kinda backwards, don't yah think?
Yeah, well... the world is a bit like that, I guess, in a lot of ways.
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I haven't seen a single Jarmusch before this and have no knowledge or his style whatsoever, nor have I smoked a cigarette while drinking coffee, but I enjoyed this film immensely.
It doesn't purport to speak of grandiose themes and epic emotions, nor does it go out of its way to be deliberately offbeat and quirky; the audience has no emotional attachment to the characters and there is no plot in most of the vignettes. So what puts this film above all the pretentiously shot black-and-white art-house crap that is slugged out every year? For one thing, it is really funny. From its expressionistic colors to the dialog that proudly smacks of absurdist humor, this film is like a breeze of cool air, utterly enjoyable from the first reel to the last that does not cloy on to the heart, but is very unforgettable.
Ultimately, its unobtrusive absurdist humor, which provokes chuckles instead of heartily laughs, serves to prove the Pinter-esquire themes of the futility of communication. We get a sense that the characters are isolated and desperately trying to touch each other through their speech but ultimately failing to do so; and yet, through their manic speech patterns and delirious pauses, what is unsaid speaks more than what is said itself. While this unconventional style of humor is often difficult to pull off as it might fast become monotonous (as evident in a recent stage production of The Caretaker that I saw), Jarmusch's deft direction with his actors (from their gestures to the way they hold their coffee cups) pushes forth the humor and carries it on steadily throughout the entire film.
It is hard to say much about a film who has nothing much to say. As in my favorite segment, 'No Problem', the one with the two French black guys, their dialog only serves to underscore the meaningless and nothingness of communication. What is scary about it is that it is so accurate, that these type of conversations, however ridiculous and absurd when portrayed on screen, often typifies our daily conversations. It depresses me sometimes that human communication can be easily reduced to all these, and this film makes the point entirely clear.
So it definitely comes as a relief, that as a conclusion, the relatively more heart-warming vignette with the two old guys (Champagne) was chosen. Not only does it touches lightly on the recurring 'acoustic resonance' theme, it also hints that we may in fact touch each other, through common music or through a common idea. And it just happens that that common song was 'I have Lost Track of the World' by Gustav Mahler, an amazing piece by an amazing composer that I have just recently began to love, a delightful moment which shows that although we are as disconnected at the different vignettes in the movie, it is comforting to know that we are still united in some weird cosmic way, like this forum here. And like the two old guys, after our coffee and cigarette break in which we step into an odd world that is not really unfamiliar, we would have to step back in to the real world again. But it doesn't hurt to have a little nap in between and pretend bad coffee is champagne.
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