Jim Jarmusch’s Coffee & Cigarettes is just 11 Scenes featuring coffee, cigarettes and conversation. There’s not much in the way of a plot. There’s an all star cast that is insanely diverse, featuring Jarmusch regulars Isaac de Bankole, Cate Blanchett and Bill Murray as well as GZA, RZA, Steve Coogan, Alfred Molina, Steve Buscemi, The White Stripes, Iggy Pop, Tom Waits and Roberto Benigni and more.

It’s usually 2 or 3 people in a scene and pretty much all they do is drink coffee/tea and smoke and talk. In Cate Blanchett’s case, she played 2 people, herself all prim and proper and an imaginary cousin named Shelly, who’s all punk affected. The members of the Wu Tang Clan feature in my fave scene with Bill Muwwee, as they put it. Instead of coffee, they drink caffeine free herbal tea and RZA is a doctor in alternative medicine. Of course, the 2 brits, Molina and Coogan drink tea, not coffee but that’s about all the sidetracking.

At the end of the day, it’s a touch incoherent but coherent. There’s really not much reason in some scenes for the people to be there at all. In fact, much of the time, there’s shit loads of awkward pauses and people just end up drinking/smoking. I guess that’s the same reason why you always see people drinking/smoking in the movies, cos it gives them something to do so they don’t look daft. Cos in this film, they do. Especially Iggy Pop in his scene with Tom Waits, that won a Palme d’Or for best short.

You get to look at the little nuances in life, like everytime the camera goes for a bird’s eye view shot of the coffee table and the mundane objects in multifarious positions. Or the endless rituals involved in drinking coffee or lighting cigarettes. The sugar and the milk and the lighters and the fags and the double slurping sound created by 2 parties after a clink of cups.

It’s a weird study of contrasts, opposites, almost like an every force has an equal and opposite reaction kinda philosophical bend. Each scene has 2 main players, each one push pulling against the other, personalities clash, ideals don’t meet. Everyone puts on a face or a smile and tries the courteous route but they end up rubbing each other the wrong way almost all the time. It’s hilarious in how absurd a situation each person seems to be in and how much they seem to want to get out of it. Most obvious in the first scene featuring Roberto Benigni and Steven Wright, in which the former offers to go the latter’s dental appointment as a way to get an excuse to leave.

There is no story here. Not much to follow, although there are recurring motifs and themes, from the convo about coffee and cigarettes being unhealthy or the black and white checkerboard pattern or music and Tesla coils. This sort of ties things together and you do feel a sameness that pervades in between shorts. You almost get the point and then realize there’s not much point. It almost feels like a film made for blogs to type about so the blogs could sound totally cool and obscure or for film nerds to pretend that there’s depth to what they’re talking about.

At times it felt like watching actors outtakes or when someone setup a camera on break or sumthin. In fact much of the dialogue was improv and most scenes shot quickly. The acting at times, is overly obvious but it doesn’t really matter because this isn’t a film pretending to have a story or a plot or some hidden agenda. It was just coffee and cigarettes.

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