I caught up recently with Jim Jarmusch’s ‘Coffee and Cigarettes’ at the Dendy cinema at Newtown.
This was a collection of some 11 short scenes featuring a widely diverse range of actors including our own Cate Blanchett. All of the scenes are linked together by the characters enjoying the pleasures of conversation over multiple coffees and cigarettes. The overwhelming impression of Jarmusch’s latest film was that it was very much more theatrical than cinematic. So be it…At least Jarmusch chose to light the film in black and white, which lended the film much more atmosphere.
I felt like a bit of a voyeur watching ‘Coffee and Cigarettes’. I kept on being drawn into trying to work out what was going on inside these particular characters. My favourite vignettes- the outrageous Roberto Benigni chatting to Steven Wright and deciding toi take Wright’s dentist appointment for him. What a typically Benigni thing to do!
Then there was the case of two iconic rock figures, Tom Waits and Iggy Pop, mumbling to each other and making even less sense than one would expect.
Perhaps the most pertinent scene to cafe life was the scene featuring Renee French. Here was a well laid out scene with a woman quietly having coffee and reading a magazine in a rather run down cafe. Her peace,her little Nirvana, was ‘broken’ with the constant disturbances of the waiter. Somehow I could relate!
There is the clever scene where two friends catch up for coffee. The scene hook is that one of the friends plays amateur psychologist and believes that his friend has some problem which he isn’t telling him about. Appropriately the scene is titled ‘No Problem’!
Jarmusch gave our own Cate a chance to shine with the vignette ‘Cousins’. Blanchett shows off her dramatic flair playing dual roles, movie star Cate and her envious cousin Shelly. They meet in the lounge room of a hotel as she is undertaking a press junket.
My favourite scene and the one that I feel was by far the most accomplished scene was called ‘Cousins?’ featuring Alfred Molina and Steve Coogan. Now this was sharp writing. Two well known actors meeting up over coffee and a powerplay takes place that by the end is dramatically reversed.
My verdict. ‘Coffee and Cigarettes’ was an entertaining, experimental work without being a masterpiece. A reflective work that requires a lot of audiences who might want something faster and punchier.