Rupert Pupkin Speaks: Olive Films - COFFEE AND CIGARETTES on Blu-ray ""

Sunday, December 4, 2016

Olive Films - COFFEE AND CIGARETTES on Blu-ray

COFFEE AND CIGARETTES (2003; Jim Jarmusch)
Sure, it's a cool thing to open a movie with a thrilling set piece or even something sexy, but sometimes simple is better. I was immediately reminded of the utter delight I take from watching Jim Jarmusch movies when I smiled my way through a sublime opening vignette with Roberto Benigni and Steven Wright.
Throughout COFFEE AND CIGARETTES, Jim Jarmusch is constantly cutting to an overhead angle, looking down on the tables with the coffee cups and packs of smokes. It is very reminiscent of a thing that Martin Scorsese does several times in TAXI DRIVER. If I recall from Scorsese's commentary, those shots had something to do with showing the ritual of certain situations. I get a similar sense from Jarmusch here. It seems like he's into showing ritual too and how something as simple as these two things in combination with a little conversation can be the stuff of life. Even awkward chats like the one between music icons Tom Waits and Iggy Pop are absolutely mesmerizing. Though the movie came out in 2003, it feels like the old Jarmusch of the 1980s. Not that he's changed his vibe that much in all these years, but the black and white short scenes of this film have that feeling of STRANGER THAN PARADISE and DOWN BY LAW. I remember when I first heard those two films mentioned back when I was working my video store job in college. People started asking for both of them and our store didn't have them - so I had to remedy that. I ended up requesting them from another store and when they showed up, they rented with some decent regularity. They also changed my life in a way because I became obsessed with Jarmusch for several years after seeing those movies. They were a huge influence on my college short films and videos - both stylistically and thematically. At the time, I hadn't seen anything like a Jarmusch movie and they were absolutely captivating in their simplicity and form. 
Whilst watching COFFEE AND CIGARETTES, I couldn't help but think of how it is kind of a eulogy for the old coffee shops and diners that despite not having disappeared completely, have become far less prominent in terms of being places where people go to get a cup of joe and be social. Starbucks has obviously overtaken everything and that's a little sad. The fringe element that Jarmusch seems to most align himself with wouldn't be caught dead in a Starbucks. So this film serves as a pleasant reminder of the "hanging out" nature of caffeine and nicotine. It's really all about hanging out. About being momentarily present in the lives of others even if those interactions turn awkward. I also thought about how there aren't any cell phones in the movie. So much of coffee and socializing now is so intertwined with our devices that there tends to be a lot less face to face time. A lot less looking into the eyes of the person across the table from you and telling stories. Okay, I'm rambling a bit now, but that actually kind of fits with me talking about a film that can be a little affably rambling in its own right. Leave it to Jim Jarmusch to remind me of the straightforward bliss of a warm beverage and conversation with another living breathing person sitting across the wobbly table from you. He also does it with some of the most entertaining people in unusual and unexpected mixtures. Jarmusch has Steve Buscemi with Joie and Cinque Lee, Steve Coogan with Alfred Molina, Bill Murray with The RZA and the GZA and Cate Blanchett among others to demonstrate the divinity of dialogue and discourse between humans. COFFEE AND CIGARETTES is as laid back and pleasurable as its title would imply and might make an interesting entry point for movie fans who want to get into Jarmusch films. The nature of the anthology here makes it fun and easy to sample the Jarmusch state of mind - which is a trip that is absolutely worth taking.
Special Features - This disc features a trailer for the film and an interview with actor Taylor Mead - who recalls working with Jarmusch on the movie.


Buy COFFEE AND CIGARETTES on Blu-ray here:
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