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Overall Rating

Awesome: 4.44%
Worth A Look57.78%
Average: 24.44%
Pretty Bad: 4.44%
Total Crap: 8.89%

5 reviews, 15 user ratings

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Coffee and Cigarettes
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by Chris Parry

"A flow chart that follows the progress of Jim Jarmusch's filmmaking career."
4 stars

I make no bones aboutt it - Jim Jarmusch is a director I admire greatly. With an original vision and a seemingly complete lack of commercial concern, he has created cinematic works that are multi-layered, provocative and downright original, from Ghost Dog to Dead Man, Night On Earth to Down By Law. But who knew that for the last seventeen years, Jarmusch has been taking small time-outs during his productions to put his actors into short films, with a view to one day bringing those films together as a stand-alone feature? I sure as heck didn't, which makes Coffee And Cigarettes one hell of a nice surprise.

The true indie directors often take a little time out of their careers to puruse works that are more personal than profitable. Linklater did a short last year about Tim "Speed" Levitch, Hartley has done European TV shorts, Smith has done comic books, but nobody has taken more detours in his respected filmmaking career than Jim Jarmusch.

With Tim Robbins and Quentin Tarantino he took part in The Typewriter, The Rifle and the Movie Camera, a look over the career of Jarmusch's friend and idol, Sam Fuller. With Year of the Horse, Jarmusch followed Neil Young and Crazy Horse around on tour for a year and shot them on Super 8. He's played himself on Spongebob Squarepants. He's acted in Blue in the Face, Slingblade, Leningrad Cowboys go America and many more. He's produced, composed, DP'ed, written, narrated and inspired, and not once has he said "okay, now I go for the big money gig."

So who else but Jarmusch would spend nearly two decades stealing camera time between shots, having his cast appear in short tales about coffee and cigarettes, none of which have anything to do with one another, but all of which tell an entirely different tale, with an entirely different genre.

For a Jarmusch fan, the chance to see so many of his staple actors on the screen together again is too much to resist. Roberto Benigni, Steve Buscemi, Isaach De Bankolé, Steven Wright, Tom Waits, Iggy Pop, Cate Blanchett, Bill Murray, GZA, RZA, Alfred Molina, Jack and Meg White from the White Stripes, Steve Coogan and more are all paired up in eleven short films. Sometimes the pairing leads to hilarious results (see Bill Murray with the Wu Tang Clan's RZA and GZA), while at other times the stories are compelling (Blanchett playing opposite herself in a split screen one-woman show) or poignant (Molina and Coogan).

The one theme present in all of these stories is coffee and cigarettes - not so much the items, but what goes on around them. Iggy Pop and tom Waits discuss their quitting of smoking as they sneak a puff ("Now that I've quit, one's alright). Cinque and Joie Lee (siblings of Spike) listen to a story from cafe waiter Steve Buscemi. A desperate Alfred Molina invites UK comic Steve Coogan over for coffee to discuss the fact that they're distant cousins. Steven Wright and Roberto Benigni pound coffee and talk surrealist nonsense.

While each of these shorts has a life of their own, what is most compelling about the whole of the films parts is how it tracks Jarmusch's progress as a director. The early shorts, with Wright and Begnini are rough, wandering, struggling to find a point. As the stories roll on, however, Jarmusch finds his feet and gives his actors stories that could well end up being among the most memorable things they'll ever do.

Not for everybody, in fact those who can't find the positives in something like Down By Law may struggle to get through Coffee and Cigarettes without a yawn or seven. But if you like to be tested by film, and enjoy seeing what can be done with an unprepared actor, a stationary camera and some black and white film stock, get to Coffee and Cigarettes sooner rather than later. It's well worth your time.

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originally posted: 03/20/04 08:01:10
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OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2004 SXSW Film Festival. For more in the 2004 South By Southwest Film Festival series, click here.
OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2004 Sydney Film Festival. For more in the 2004 Sydney Film Festival series, click here.
OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2004 San Francisco Film Festival. For more in the 2004 San Francisco Film Festival series, click here.
OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2004 Tribeca Film Festival. For more in the 2004 Tribeca Film Festival series, click here.
OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2004 Edinburgh Film Festival. For more in the 2004 Edinburgh Film Festival series, click here.

User Comments

7/03/20 Charles Tatum Hot and cold...the way I take my own coffee 3 stars
11/08/06 Carol Baker worst documentary ever. not watchable 1 stars
5/23/06 Agent Sands Funny, interesting vignettes. 4 stars
8/11/05 The Grinch Both the Emperor and Jarmusch have no clothes... 2 stars
5/15/05 Indrid Cold A few scenes work, but mostly quite boring. 3 stars
2/14/05 Angela Saunders Moves toooo slooooowly. Complete waste of time, had to turn it off. 1 stars
12/20/04 MyGreenBed Other than the Waits-Iggy segment, this is an awful failure. Blue In The Face is better. 1 stars
10/27/04 nicki the different ingredients go well together 4 stars
10/19/04 Sharon great movie but no long enough, we need more more and more 5 stars
10/03/04 el burro Completely pretentious navel gazing 1 stars
8/11/04 ZF the Blanchett and Molina/Coogan bits were good, the rest blah 3 stars
7/29/04 pantseatflyer only the Bill Murray clip was funny 2 stars
7/26/04 Agent Sands Hilarious, really creative, interesting, & quite weary of how unhealthy the title duo is. 5 stars
3/20/04 Bingo was his name-o A little slow moving for most tastes, but well worth seeing. 3 stars
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  14-May-2004 (R)
  DVD: 21-Sep-2004


  19-Aug-2004 (M)

Directed by
  Jim Jarmusch

Written by
  Jim Jarmusch

  Cate Blanchett
  Steve Buscemi
  Alfred Molina
  Bill Murray
  Roberto Benigni
  Steve Coogan

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