Coffee and Cigarettes
Putting unexpected combinations of actors together as they smoke and drink coffee make these 11 vignettes work well. Jarmusch takes credit for writing, but Bill Murray improvises a conversation between members of the Wu-Tang Clan about herbal remedies. In the best, longest segment, actors Molina and Coogan talk: Molina asked for the meeting. Coogan is condescending when Molina, all manners and charm, explains that they share genealogy: a common Italian ancestor, centuries ago. Molina hopes the connection will lead to their becoming friends and doing things together, but Coogan is unenthusiastic until Molina says something that impresses him, when he becomes ingratiating. In a compact way, this segment tell a lot about human nature.
Smoking and drinking give all the explanation we need for the meetings, but the actors seem a bit self-conscious, and Murray drinks his coffee straight from the pot. The prize goes to Cate Blanchett, who plays herself and her cousin, who's quietly envious of Cate's success, and patronized when Cate gives her some perfume - a bottle, she correctly guesses, that the star received free.
The third segment, "Coffee and Cigarettes II: Somewhere in California," won an award for best short at Cannes, and is a masterpiece of observation about two musicians acutely aware of who each is, but try to seem unimpressed: Tom Waits and Iggy Pop have sit by a jukebox, which leads to a subtle one-upmanship about who does or doesn't have songs on the machine.
Sometimes a segment depends largely on an actor's screen persona, as in a conversation between Cinque, Joie Lee, and Steve Buscemi, who confides incredible facts to them in an all-knowing style so confident they are powerless to penetrate it. Elvis was replaced by his twin brother, Buscemi explains, but it's not the theory that's amusing so much as his determination to force it upon two listeners clearly not interested.
Here's a movie with about the energy of a coffee break. The people in it are odd, and sometimes very strange, if not so very unusual, considering some conversations overheard in Starbucks.
Bill Murray, Steve Buschemi, Cate Blanchett, Tom Waits, Iggy Pop, Joie Lee, Cinque
Actors talking as they drink coffee and smoke
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