A review of ďCoffee and CigarettesĒ by Jeanne Aufmuth

 

Stars: **

Rating: R for language and adult themes

Run Time: 1 hour, 36 minutes

 

Jim Jarmusch has never been one to toe the line directorially-speaking.His Ghost Dog and Night on Earth are masters of the obscure. Coffee and Cigarettes is classic Jarmusch; an odd and intermittently engaging glimpse at Americaís favorite take-a-break pastime.

Eleven vignettes (shot in glorious black-and-white) are loosely strung together with java and smokes as their central theme.Itís a hit-and-miss affair; a vast compilation of conversations peppered with awkward undertones and concealed intent.

Some pieces fare better than others, based on casting chemistry and unscripted pacing.A diner encounter showcasing hardcore rappers RZA and GZA of the Wu-Tang Clan startling waiter Billy Murray (as Bill Murray) is odd and stilted, while an impromptu meet-and-greet between Alfred Molina and English comic Steve Coogan is rife with celebrity posturing and subtle ego-stroking.

Cate Blanchett plays herself in duo, as the movie star that she is and her defensive, country-mouse of a cousin whose visit is hurriedly wedged between set calls.News of the weird:Jack and Meg White discussing the mechanical merits of the Tesla coil.

Jarmusch has been working on his eccentric anthology on-and-off since 1986, when he created a six-minute improvisational sketch with Steven Wright and Roberto Benigni meeting in a bar to nip, puff and chat.He has continued to add to this kooky repertoire for eighteen years, enlisting friends and professional acquaintances to engage in his loosely scripted musings in front of the cameras of such notable cinematographers as Ellen Kuras (Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind) and Frederick Elmes (Hulk, The Ice Storm).

Coffee and cigarettes arenít the only topics du jour; the dialogue ranges from vague uber-drivel to the simple pleasure of the perfect sip to Paris in the twenties and Elvis conspiracy theories.Brilliant when itís working and dull as dishwater when itís not, C and C is nonetheless an intriguing experiment.