Coffee and Cigarettes

In fairness, when watching Coffee and Cigarettes today, I can admit that I expected a condescending, pretentious indie flick, which would exude all the common workings and themes that really make “Indie films” stick out as the kind of movies you have to discuss with a glass of wine, mustaches bristling and monocles flying all over the shop. However, that wasn’t the case.  What I actually found was some of the most witty, accurate and downright black humor that I’ve seen in a movie in quite some time.

Coffee and cigarettes is a movie made by cult favourite Jim Jarmusch, and focuses around the lives of several groups of people, who, while they appear to have no seeming connection, at least in the narrative sense, all share the common love for drinking coffee, and smoking cigarettes. The collection of shorts often focuses around the social interaction between the characters, or lack thereof.  Such as in the short between Alex Descas and Isaach De Bankolé, in which the characters speak very little, or one of them doesn’t, yet tries to get something out of his friend, asking “What his problem is” or “If there’s something wrong?”

Compare this to the lively discussion between Steve Coogan and Alfred Molina, in which Molina comes across desperate to appeal to Coogan, until Molina receives a call from Spike Jonze, who Coogans character is a huge fan of. However, having broken the bridge early on in regards to proper social conduct, he loses his chance to meet one of his idols.

This theme of social rejection plays heavily throughout the series of shorts. Despite the fact that simply sitting in a coffee bar may be a somewhat social activity, some would argue that smoking isn’t, and acts as a spectacular contrast between the overarching themes. This is exemplified the most in the Short with Renée French in which the overly eager busboy is consistently trying to fill up her drink, and become some sort of help to her, and she always brushes him off, and gives off a wholly antisocial aura. Compare this to the scene in which Iggy Pop and Tom Waits, in which, while the conversation seems friendly for the most part, there’s also a sense of hostility, and awkwardness-which is another key notion in the film.

Due to the fact that the film is almost entirely based around the stellar dialogue between the characters, I was reminded of several of the Coen Brothers movies, especially The Big Lebowski. I’d recommend watching this movie, if not to compare it to Coffee and Cigarettes.

A movie which I found quite special, Coffee and Cigarettes is one which I am very glad I watched. With an outstanding cast, script, dialogue and incredibly believable characters, I can really suggest you check this out, if you’re into …movies, basically. While it may not be flashy, action packed and full of mind blowing situations, it’s a brilliant piece of work.

And you’re robbing yourself if you don’t watch the scene between Bill Murray and the Wu-Tang Clan.

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3 Responses to Coffee and Cigarettes

  1. yes, social rejection theme interesting, did you read Jonathan Rosenbaum’s review?

    -Also you might appreciate Jarmusch’s film Mystery Train – about 2 young Japanese tourists on a pilgrimage to Memphis – again characters are not what they seem..

    • darklydreamingmatoya says:

      I love the way in which Rosenbaum associates the theme of “alternatives” with Tesla, and relates it to the film, that was deceptively clever.

  2. Pingback: WK 3: Community/REmix / relations [documentary, screen ethics, food, affect] « Theory as Practice

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