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Coffee and Cigarettes

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Hey, another film by Jim Jarmusch. Well, not an actual film just eleven episodes with people he wanted to film or so. As the title suggests, they all revolve around Coffee and Cigarettes [IMDB, official site], that ultimate 'breakfast of champions' and possibly one of the reasons why I regret not being a smoker.

Various coffees, held over checkered tables In fact the stories aren't breakfast stories but more daytime stories with the fact that coffee and cigarettes don't make a healthy lunch being mentioned a few times. And that's just one of the little things loosely linking the stories which are mostly disjoint otherwise.

Each story is set in a different place with people sitting at a table drinking coffee and smoking. Most of the tables are in run-down diners and have checkered tops. Not the prettiest sights in themselves. The conversations people have over their coffee are rarely enthusiastic, more often superficial and mostly very static and full of people not knowing what to say. And each scene is done by different actors.

We have a fantastically nervous and caffeinated Roberto Benigni, filmed before coming to fame; Cinqué and Joie Lee being a good and a bad twin, served coffee by the mad-as-ever Steve Buscemi who talks about Elvis; Then there are Iggy Pop and Tom Waits (I hate his goatee thingy) who don't know what to talk about but still manage the Tarantino-style line What are you sayin' man? You're sayin', I'm like a Taco Bell kind of guy?, they go on saying that coffee at IHOP is good. Old mafiosi Joe Rigano and Vinny Vella Chinese? Japanese? It's all the same.; Renée French reading a magazine about motor bikes and guns being served by E.J. Rodriguez; Alex Descas not having a problem and thus not telling Isaach de Bankolé about it; And Cate Blanchett being herself and her run-down cousin meeting in a posh hotel, acting rather well.

Then, to my delight – and surprise as I didn't read the reviews all the way through as usual – there were Meg and Jack White in a sweet scene where he demonstrates his Tesla Coil to her and she shows surprising knowledge about the thing – a reference to that strange rotating machine mentioned on the first record, perhaps?

Then it's cousin time again with, Alfred Molina telling Steve Coogan that they're relatives. I thought Steve wears a cool coat when he entered the scene, and Alfred promptly mentioned that. They're in L.A. I do love visiting L.A.; it's a great place to visit. It's an even nicer place to leave. Then there's a strange scene with GZA and RZA (yup those seem to be names) and Bill Murray who all play themselves, yet Bill is a waiter and a very strange one at that. To finish two old men, Taylor Mead and Bill Rice, have a bad coffee in their break and pretend it's champagne in 1920s Paris or 1970s New York.

So those are the stories. Some are cool, some aren't so cool. They all share some little details – perhaps I should try to make a diagram. Some stories, such as the one with Reneé French don't fit in as well as others (the only relation we could see to the other stories might have been the motorbike sounds in the background).

Interesting, but not brilliant. I found eleven short stories a few too many and thought things were perhaps a little bit too loosely joined – when compared to Night on Earth, say.

Meg White holding a cigarette with two mugs of coffee

See the screenshot above? I nicked that one from the trailer on the website. Look at the site itself and you'll see about the same shot, just a moment later, with Meg's shadow not covering as much of the cigarette pack. (Even, better, look at the little leaflet they had at the cinema which contains the same shot in better quality.) Now take a close look at that pack. It is branded as 'Detroit' in a nice logo. Nice touch. I only came across this because they had credits for 'cigarette pack design' at the end of the film.

[Buy at amazon .com, .uk, .de]

August 23, 2004, 0:49

Tagged as cate blanchett, detroit, film, iggy pop, jim jarmusch, steve buscemi, tom waits, white stripes.

Comments

Comment by d.w.: User icon

GZA und RZA.

August 23, 2004, 16:49

Comment by ssp: User icon

I was remotely aware of RZA before, thanks to the Kill Bill soundtrack, where he is even mentioned. But the name is pronounced as Ar-Zee-A. Whereas it was pronounced completely differently in the film (and the link you give).

Now I could also learn about the greater context of it all.

August 23, 2004, 17:14

Comment by d.w.: User icon

Have you seen Jarmusch’s Ghost Dog? Ma belle and I watched it last night, and enjoyed it quite a bit. RZA did the music for that one, too.

August 30, 2004, 4:48

Comment by ssp: User icon

Yeah, I saw it a few years ago. I thought it was quite good and think it’s the reason why the guys spoke French to begin with.

Night on Earth still remains my favourite Jarmusch movie, though.

August 30, 2004, 8:47

Comment by ssp: User icon

A mildly related thing that I forgot to mention: Hefner should be recommended listening. After all they did The Hymn for the Cigarettes and The Hymn for the Coffee.

August 30, 2004, 8:51

Comment by michael: User icon

down by law

January 20, 2006, 18:58

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