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A series of vignettes, made with actors and musicians (some of whom are well known) who meet at a table in one café or another, smoke cigarettes over coffee, and talk about nothing in particular as we do. The conversations sometimes focus on the meeting itself, other times on distant subjects and occasionally on the harm that smoking does to health. And sometimes, it's all about the nature of fame itself.

Review by Louise Keller:
From irritating to riveting, Jim Jarmusch's Coffee and Cigarettes is a delicious concept that may not always work, but fluidly takes us from one reality to another. It acts as introduction to diverse characters whose conversation varies from pleasantries to profundities. Coffee and Cigarettes are the constant and often the focus - shot in striking black and white, emphasising the black liquid swirling in white cups, cigarettes the accessory, flitting frenetically from hand to mouth and finally to ashtray. Structured into a series of short segments, the essence is about people meeting and communication - or not. Jarmusch has gathered an extraordinary cast - as diverse as Oscar-winner Roberto Benigni and rapper GZA. By using their own names, the cast enforces its own personality on the characters - imagine Bill Murray as a waiter, drinking coffee from the coffee pot.

Often presumptuous and perhaps even arrogant in the belief that we would be engaged watching two characters talking about literally nothing, Jarmusch develops the idea, allowing it to swell like a buoyant wave. There are moments which are awkward and even (dare I say) boring, but there are also moments of sheer magic - like Cate Blanchett's dual role in the segment entitled 'Cousins', when the privileged and the everyday worlds collide as Cate the Star meets Cousin Shelly in a hotel lounge. This is the performance highlight of the film; the disconcerting thing is that fact appears to be woven into the script as Cate the Star enthuses about her husband and baby. Cousin Shelly is the antithesis of ever-gracious Cate - resentful, bitter and snappy.

Another highlight is the entertaining segment in which Alfred Molina meets with Steve Coogan. What a treat, as we squirm with Molina while Coogan makes every excuse under the warm LA sun as to why he should not divulge his home phone number to his new acquaintance. Almost melting under Molina's praises for his works in such films as 24 Hour Party People, the piece de resistance comes when a panting female fan comes asking Coogan for his autograph; the only piece of paper she can come up with is in fact her passport, which the faceless (and aptly dressed backless) fan asks him to sign.

I found some of the repetition annoying (the constant clicking of cups, saying 'cheers', and the repeated message that coffee and cigarettes are bad for you), but the message that comes over loudly and clearly, is that irrespective of which of life's boards you are treading, there is a common factor that links us all. Coffee (and Tea) and Cigarettes are the props that allow the juices of communication to flow.

Published February 3, 2005

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(US, 2003)

CAST: Roberto Benigni, Steven Wright, Joie Lee, Cinqué Lee, Steve Buscemi, Iggy Pop, Tom Waits, Joseph Rigano, Vinny Vella, Vinny Vella jnr, Cate Blanchett, Alfred Molina, Bill Murray, Steve Coogan and others

PRODUCER: Jason Kliot, Joana Vicente

DIRECTOR: Jim Jarmusch

SCRIPT: Jim Jarmusch

CINEMATOGRAPHER: Tom DiCillio, Frederick Elmes, Ellen Kuras, Robby Müller

EDITOR: Jim Jarmusch, Terry Katz, Melody London, Jay Rabinowitz

PRODUCTION DESIGN: Dan Bishop, Mark Friedberg, Tom Jarmusch

RUNNING TIME: 96 minutes



DVD DISTRIBUTOR: Warner Home Video

DVD RELEASE: February 2, 2005

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