Pros: the realness of the conversations, stark scenery, long list of actors
Cons: none for me
The Bottom Line: “People I say it's so early in the morning It's a quarter till three We're sittin' here talkin' Over cigarettes and drinking coffee” ~Otis Redding
It’s true, as they mention in one of the segments, during a certain time frame in our [or at least my] lives, we did settle most of the woes and problems of the world by settling down to a table with a cup of coffee and a cigarette. My parents generation used a cocktail to start the conversation, we used coffee, now it’s a latte or bottled water. Whatever means you used, it seems you can solve about anything in the world in a little conversation shared between two people and your chosen vices.
Of course, by the time this film was finally finished, it took over 17 years to finish filming all the segments, coffee has changed quite a bit and you certainly can’t sit down in a restaurant or anywhere else in public and have a cigarette.
Jim Jarmusch wrote and directed Coffee and Cigarettes, getting 5 nominations and winning one award. It is rated R for language. The film, shot totally in black and white, consists of about 20 vignettes that center around, for the most part, a couple of people sitting at a table sharing coffee and cigarettes and discussing the world in general. Each vignette is short and the problems are never resolved, but such is life. What is unique is the fact that this is simply how the common person spends their day, obsessing over things that can’t be resolved.
While the scenes don’t seem to be connected, once in a while something will come up in one of the conversations that was mentioned before. It is like a huge wheel of karma. You certainly can’t pinpoint a singular performance because, for the most part, they were not performing. From what I read, a good deal of the conversations were improvised, so they were not acting but simply holding conversations. The gritty black and white, distressed scenery, and endless cups of coffee shots all added to the fare.
I may miss a performer or two but the ones I can remember were: Roberto Benigni, Steven Wright, Joie & Cinque Lee, Steve Buscemi, Iggy Pop, Tom Waits, Joseph Rigano, Cate Blanchett, Jack & Meg White, Alfred Molina, Steve Coogan, The GZA, RZA, and Bill Murray. The segment with Benigni and Wright was filmed in 1987 but the Waits & Iggy Pop wasn’t done until 1992. Quite the time frame there.
Oddly enough I found this quite enjoyable, this small interaction between people. The very blandness of their discussions, or the complexities of them, seemed real. It is like you are sharing time with friends, holding those in-depth discussion that really don’t matter or go any where.
*** out of **** Jim Jarmusch's "Coffee and Cigarettes" will either engage or flat-out bore you. I suppose the same could go for the majority of the director's other films, but I find this one to be especially divisive. I know a good number of people who would probably hate it if they saw it; but I also know those who might enjoy its relaxing cinematic approach. It's a simple film, really; enhanced by Jarmuch's signature eye for humane dialogue as well as his quirky direction. … more