Coffee And Cigarettes (15)

Film image

The ViewBirmingham Review

StarStarStarNo StarNo Star
Review byMatthew Turner18/10/2004

Three out of Five stars
Running time: 96 mins

Beautifully photographed but very uneven film - the stronger sketches make up for the weaker ones, but the overall effect doesn’t quite work.

If you’re a) a Jim Jarmusch fan or b) the sort of person who seeks out short films then it’s entirely possible that you’ll have seen some of Coffee and Cigarettes already.

The project started life as a Saturday Night Live sketch in 1986, featuring Roberto Benigni and Steven Wright, in which the two men have a bizarre chat over coffee and cigarettes. Jarmusch then made two other similar short films: one with Steve Buscemi in 1989 and one starring Tom Waits and Iggy Pop.

He then filmed the remaining seven segments in 2003 and edited all eleven films into a feature length compendium, with each segment linked by cigarettes, coffee and conversation.

Tom Waits And Iggy Pop Play One-Upmanship

Perhaps unsurprisingly, the strongest sections are the ones that were already short films. The best of them features Tom Waits and Iggy Pop meeting in a diner and subtly trying to one-up each other over the number of their songs on the jukebox. They also compare notes on having given up smoking (whilst smoking) and discuss topics such as “roadside surgery”.

The 1989 short (filmed while Jarmusch was making Mystery Train) is equally good and features Steve Buscemi explaining to Cinque and Joie Lee (Spike Lee’s brother and sister) how Elvis was replaced by his Evil Twin.

Of the remaining films, the highlights include: “Cousins” (an impressive dual performance by Cate Blanchett, who plays both herself and her white trash cousin); “Cousins?” (in which Alfred Molina tries to convince a disinterested Steve Coogan that they might be related); and “Delerium”, in which the Wu-Tang Clan’s RZA and GZA swap notes on herbal remedies with Bill Murray.

There’s also a bizarre section featuring The White Stripes, called “Jack shows Meg his Tesla coil”. Unfortunately, the other four films are much weaker and generally forgettable. (It’s tempting to say that the effect is rather like alternating cups of good coffee and bad coffee, but that’s not strictly true).

More Than Meets The Eye

Although coffee and cigarettes are the obvious link between the films, there are other themes that occasionally crop up - for example, there’s an undercurrent of envy running through the sketches with Coogan, Blanchett and Tom Waits. The Coogan / Molina sketch in particular is superb at suggesting the jealousy involved in the Hollywood hierarchy. (One wonders if Coogan can bear to watch this now, after Around the World in 80 Days flopped so badly).

As well as the thematic links, Jarmusch links the films by including overhead shots of the various tables, several of which have chessboard patterns on them. In addition, the black and white photography is gorgeous throughout – Jarmusch used a total of four separate cinematographers over the years, including Tom DiCillo, Robby Muller and Frederick Elmes.

In short, though the film doesn’t quite hang together as a feature, it is still worth seeing, particularly if you’re a Jarmusch fan. Be warned though: this is not a film to see if you are trying to give up smoking. Or coffee, for that matter.

Film Trailer

Coffee And Cigarettes (15)
Be the first to review Coffee And Cigarettes...
01 Focus (15)

Will Smith, Margot Robbie, Rodrigo Santoro

02 Selma (12A)

David Oyelowo, Carmen Ejogo, Tim Roth

03 Far from the Madding Crowd (tbc)

Carey Mulligan, Tom Sturridge, Matthias Schoenaert...

04 Chappie (tbc)

Hugh Jackman, Sigourney Weaver, Sharlto Copley

05 A Most Violent Year (15)

Oscar Isaac, Jessica Chastain, David Oyelowo

Content updated: 20/05/2019 20:09

Latest Film Reviews

Film Blog

Urban Pundit

Keep up to date with everything in film and cinema at Urban Pundit, the exciting new blog.

Film of the Week

The Conjuring (15)

Hugely enjoyable, genuinely scary horror flick that provides a welcome throwback to classic 1970s chillers, thanks to impeccable production design, a superb script, powerfully atmospheric direction, intense set-pieces and terrific performances.

Latest Close Up

Noah Baumbach Interview

The Frances Ha director discusses co-writing the script with Greta Gerwig, shooting against the backdrop of New York and the real lives of the city’s people, Greta Gerwig’s performance, the music in the film and the picture's visual style.