Wednesday, October 06, 2004

Coffee and Cigarettes Directed by Jim Jarmusch

Coffee and Cigarettes, ironically, is like a breath of fresh air. An independent film w/o all the baggage and grief usually associated with the Indie Film. For example: this year’s Garden State is a prime example of Indie Baggage. Riffing (like an amateur) on Joyce, it is top-heavy with the epiphanic moment. Let’s scream into a gulch, let’s not cry at our mother’s funeral, let’s observe the world passing by our medicated gaze. (Caveat Emptor: Garden State is higher on my 2004 list than Coffee and Cigarettes. I’m picking on it only to clearly show the distinction between the separate cloth that it and C&C are cut out of. Really, I liked Garden State. Why do I feel like I'm making excuses for my taste?) Conversely, Coffee and Cigarettes has none of that. Jim Jarmusch could have made a giant misstep had he made the eleven conversations that constitute the whole of the film matter. Instead we get eleven disparate vignettes, the only connective tissue being the eponymous coffee and cigarettes present (or discussed) in each scene.

I’m not going to genuflect at the C&C altar, though. It can only go so far: when the film’s over, it’s over. Meaning: you cannot take a whole lot away from it except a wild hankering for, well, coffee and cigarettes. (Caveat Emptor Pt. II: if you’re attempting to quit, do not watch this movie. I don’t smoke and it made me want to start. I had to rent an educational D.A.R.E. video just to combat the carcinogenic effects of this film.) So, without the baggage, there are no thematic depths to plumb. Without the thematic depths there is no analysis beyond "I liked it" or "I didn't like it."

But that is not to say that Coffee and Cigarettes isn’t compelling. What’s brilliant about this format is that, if you don’t like something, it only be on the screen for about 8 minutes. This makes for quick and entertaining viewing. Jack and Meg White, Alfred Molina, RZA, Bill Murray, Roberto Benigni, Tom Waits, Cate Blanchett, Iggy Pop – in 8 minute spurts all of these are satisfying, never cloying, and engaging for each minute of screen time. For the subject matter (that is, one devoid of any real significant weight) this is the perfect format. Finally, of particular enjoyment: Stephen Wright and Roberto Benigni with the caffeine jitters, Tom Waits and Iggy Pop dueling over who is cooler, Cate Blanchett talking to…Cate Blanchett, and Steve Coogan acting very Hollywood toward Alfred Molina.


Blogger Scott said...

I don't know. C and C was pretty annoying in my opinion, save the Cate Blanchett segment. The eight minutes with Roberto Benigni felt like an eternity to me. The others were just...there.

24 October, 2004 20:26  

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