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Coffee and cigarettes (2003) — imdb

Finally, a movie my sister can get behind! With a title like ‘Coffee And Cigarettes’, health nuts must be having a collective heart attack. And the title isn’t ironic. Every single episode in this string of vignettes movie has enough java and smokes to murder a truck driver. Bizarro writer/director Jim Jarmusch shot the flick over many years, gathering a wildly disparate cast to co star in his black and white art film. No scenes are connected (except by the ever present cigs & a cup o’ joe) and each quirky sequence functions as its own self contained act.

Most of the character’s names are just the actor’s names, but that doesn’t mean they’re playing themselves. In reality, Bill Murray might moonlight as a waiter and hang out with the Wu Tang Clan (who always refer to him as «billmurray», one word). Jack & Meg White from the White Stripes might have a remarkable interest in science. And Cate Blachett might have a resentful, rebellious cousin who looks exactly like her (because she’s playing both of them). But I doubt it. Those are just a few of the oddball sketches in this movie. In fact, I mentioned those ones first because, of the scenes with the big name celebrities, they’re probably the weakest.

Alfred Molina and Steve Coogan work together in the longest sequence. Molina is courteous and affable, Coogan aloof and mildly interested in why Doc Ock has asked for this meeting. In a gem of warp speed character development, Molina goes from shy to eager to crushed to bitter. Both men are excellent. Also, musicians Tom Waits and Iggy Pop have similar oil/water chemistry, which is what makes their culture clash one upsmanship memorable. Roberto Benigni and Steven Wright set the tone with their jittery, nonsensical opening scene. There’s more, but I’ve forgotten the rest already.

So I didn’t reveal much plot. What’s there to tell, though? The terrific Molina/Coogan sequence could be lengthened into its own movie, but the rest of this picture wouldn’t work if the short scenes played any longer. ‘Coffee And Cigarettes’ isn’t really even about smoke rings or the caffeine rush. Jarmusch and the cast use those as props to create some zany bits with an «opposites not» motif. The flick is funny, a bit too long, and light years away from the mainstream. I enjoyed myself, found my interest bobbing & weaving, then left the theatre. That’s okay. Even art films are allowed to be fast food.