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Coffee & Cigarettes

Coffee and Cigarettes
Starring: Roberto Benigni, Steven Wright, Joie Lee, Cinque Lee,
Steve Buscemi, Bill Murray, Tom Waits, Alfred Molina

Rated:R
Reviewed by: Jim
Release date: May 14, 2004 Released by: United Artists

Jim Jarmusch’s series of vignettes here start before other lauded films like Night On Earth.

Bark in 1986, Coffee & Cigarettes was just a six-minute short featuring Roberto Benigni and Steven Wright. Now the project has come to fruition for Jarmusch in a full-length feature shot in black-and-white. It’s a fairly amusing series of duets, so to speak, with his characters sipping coffee and smoking cigarettes.

The Benigni/Wright segment has been re-titled “Strange To Meet You.” Jarmusch gets sharp monochromatic work often complements of distinguished lensers like Ellen Kuras and Frederick Elmes, remembered for Blue Velvet.

There are plenty of encounters with some common themes as nicotine is talked about as an insecticide and what Paris was like nearly a century ago. Not all of them sparkle, but Bill Murray is humorous opposite hip-hop artists RZA and GZA. A nice rapport exists between Alfred Molina (Chocolate) and Steve Coogan (24 Hour Party People) in “Cousins.” Are they related to each other? Who knows. But does it really matter?

Cate Blanchett excels in the middle of these miniature movies as herself and a sullen Aussie rock musician cousin in a formidable dual turn. But, as Jarmusch’s untraditional inependent film making revels in our humdrum existences the highlight has to be with musicians Tom Waits and Iggy Pop in “Somewhere in California.” This quietly delirious cinematic collection may not add up to more than some of its engaging parts, but it can be habit forming.

 
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