Coffee And Cigarettes

Coffee And Cigarettes

***1/2

Reviewed by: David Stanners

Coffee and cigarettes are two of the globe's most favoured proclivities. Whether you use them as a bad habit, a morning starter, a caffeine kick, a social activity, or a prop, it matters not; all of these functions are an integral part of Jim Jarmusch's quirky series of black-and-white sketches, featuring a range of celebrities and artists discussing everything from Elvis's twin brother to Paris in the Twenties to the use of nicotine as an insecticide.

Jarmusch has taken more than 17 years to assemble his dozen or so vignettes. The first is opened up by a younger, less follically challenged Roberto Benigni making chit-chat around the coffee table with Stephen Wright. This is one of the funnier sketches, with Benigni struggling along with his broken English, but in true flamboyant style, accepting a trip to the dentist on behalf of a reluctant Wright. In between, Steve Buscemi pops up as the hideously incompetent waiter, espousing shady conspiracy theories involving Elvis's apparent twin brother.

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More stories follow, each with varying degrees of success. One of the best is Cate Blanchett's sketch, in which she plays both herself and her grungy cousin-with-attitude so well that I fully bought into it. It was only during the closing credits that I realised she had played both parts.

Probably the best of all is a tongue-in-cheek number between Alfred Molina and Steve Coogan, where, for once, we deviate from coffee and cigarettes as the central props to pots of tea and fags. Molina plays the actor in awe of Steve Coogan, who, with a touch of the Alan Partridge charm, hilariously disses Molina's genealogically backed contention that they are cousins.

The film's charm is the feeling of spontaneity and randomness. Despite coffee and cigarettes featuring dominantly in many of the conversations, from issues of health to secret pleasures, they are, as Jarmusch says, "Just a pretext for showing the undramatic part of your day, when you take a break and use these drugs, or whatever. It's a way of getting characters together to talk in the sort of throwaway period of their day."

Undoubtedly some of the sketches lack punch and rely on their celebrity novelty value. Besides those aforementioned, the full gamut of artists includes Tom Waits, The White Stripes, The Wu Tang Clan, Bill Murray and Iggy Pop. It is hardly surprising then, with a cast like this, that Jarmusch is onto a winner before the starting gun is even fired.

To be fair, there are absolute gems scattered throughout, quantifying beautifully the seemingly insignificant but quirky observations in life, that when - as in this case - placed in the right hands, make for some very happy viewing.

Reviewed on: 18 Aug 2004
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Coffee And Cigarettes packshot
Series of sketches based around coffee and cigarettes, featuring a collection of the great and the good from the indie side of Hollywood.
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David Haviland ***

Director: Jim Jarmusch

Writer: Jim Jarmusch

Starring: Roberto Benigni. Steven Wright, Joie Lee, Cinque Lee, Steve Buscemi, Iggy Pop, Tom Waits, Cate Blanchett, Meg White, Jack White, Alfred Molina, Steve Coogan, GZA, RZA, Bill Murray

Year: 2003

Runtime: 96 minutes

Country: US

Festivals:

EIFF 2004

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