Saturday, July 2, 2011

Coffee and Cigarettes - Movie Review

Watched this delightful movie on DVD last night and. I never imagined that they could make movies like this. Jim Jarsmuch puts together 11 short stories, all having the same common thread of people drinking coffee and smoking cigarettes and talking. It's so different that you wonder why people can't experiment a little more.

The movie moves to 11 different places. All with two people, some with three, sitting over a table and sipping coffee and drinking cigarettes. In the first story Roberto Benigni and Steven Wright meet at a coffee shop. They are strangers and they have a conversation about coffee, its effects, and cigarettes. As the conversation drags on inanely, Wright tells Benigni that he has an appointment with the dentist but he does not want to go. Benigni tells him that he is free and he would like to go. And then he excuses himself and goes off to meet the dentist. Get the idea? The episodes are like this one. Two completely different, yet similar characters, bound by coffee and cigarettes and their conversations. I loved it.

There is the episode of two twins, a boy and a girl, drinking coffee in a coffee shop. They don't like the coffee (one does and the other does not - they do not agree on anything!), the intrusive waiter and his theories of Elvis Presley's evil twin brother (who was actually racist). In the next episode 'Somewhere in California' two musicians meet in a quiet little coffee shop and share cigarettes to celebrate quitting smoking and leave. Again two different tastes in music and life (call me Iggy says one, and the other promptly calls him Jim). In the next episode two old men are in a cafe and one of them is yelling at the other that too much smoking can kill him. Obviously they are old friends - one smokes and the other does not, but both drink lots of coffee.

Then there is an episode where a beautiful young lady is reading a book on guns while drinking her coffee and an intrusive waiter tries to get her attention by being over active in his service. Every time he comes near her, she closes the cup so he does not pour more coffee (I hold on to my cups in Irani cafe's so they don't take them away!). he wanst to serve and she wants to be left alone! An episode where Cate Blanchett playing herself, meets a cousin in the coffee shop of the fancy hotel she is staying in. Cate obviously doing well, while the cousin is leading an ordinary life. In the next, a boyfriend shows his girlfriend, an invention he made based on the designs of Nicola Tesla on whom he has some definite intellectual views. The girl appears disinterested, thinks that one of the biggest contributions Tesla made was to inspire a band to name themselves Tesla, until something that the boy says about Tesla thinking that the 'earth is a conductor of acoustical resonance'. The coil stops working and suddenly the boyfriend is amazed at the girlfriend's in depth knowledge of the technology as she figures out what is wrong with the coil in a matter of fact way.

In 'No Problem' two friends meet in a coffee shop where one of them thinks that the other called him because he wanted to tell him about a problem he is having. The other friend says no, he has no problem. But this guy insists until at one point the other man tells him he is crazy. The other guy can't believe that the first guy has no problem still. In another episode, an ordinary and not-so-famous actor meets an actor who has just made some name for himself. He tells the famous one how much he loves his stuff, and that they are really cousins and that they should know each other better and could he have his phone number etc. The other does not give him his phone number plainly evading this 'new pest;. And then this first guy gets a call from someone important, someone he knows well through another campaign, and the second guy wants to give him his phone number. Now the first guy does not want it anymore! In another episode tow musicians drink herbal tea and offer natural cures to Bill Murray who plays the waiter and in the last one, two old men at work are having coffee, imagining it to be champagne, thinking of the good times of Paris in 1920s, of New York in 1970s as the strains of some old music play in the air.

This was simply brilliant. Apparently the director made three episodes early on and then strung the other pieces. Most artistes are actors, musicians, some of them playing themselves, some playing other characters but with their own names. Its like nothing I have see and I loved it. The conversations that the people have are so inane and so true to real life, just what one would do over coffee and cigarettes. Agreeing, disagreeing, fighting, being stuck on some ideas, passing time and then moving on until the next break!

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