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Culture Reviews
Coffee and Cigarettes / By J.Jarmusch /
35 mm 
By Richard Morris
This is the fuel that often keeps us going. We ask them to be apart of our ceremonial rituals to start the day, compliment our meal, comfort our uncomfortable situations. Overall just leave us with some addiction to feel a little naughty with. Caffeine & Nicotine are the two vices we all know and love - or Coffee and Cigarettes as they are better known.

In his new movie, Coffee and Cigarettes, Jim Jarmusch uses the title objects to explore the often simple, but honestly discomforting conversations we find ourselves stuck in. Shot between 1986 and 2003, Jarmusch filmed eleven short dialogues in black and white to create this feature length film. He presents each character not for their acting ability, but for their natural personality. Rather than focusing on any meaningful dialogue, Jarmusch uses coffee and cigarettes as a comforting platform on which two contrasting personalities can survive.

Beginning as a side project for NBC’s (American Cable Network) skit comedy show “Saturday Night Live,” Jarmusch invited famous actors such as Bill Murray, Cate Blanchett, and Steve Buscemi to play themselves in scripted scenes centered around coffee and cigarettes. Each scene is set around a small coffee table and using basic camera angles, takes an unpretentious view of each situation. The raw cinematography creates a very natural and honest feel for the viewer. Coupled with the characters effortless acting, each short dialogue appeared very true-to life.

In “Cousins,” Cate Blanchett plays herself while reuniting with her down-and-out cousin (also played by Blanchett). Taking a break from press junkets for her upcoming movie, Blanchett meets her cousin for coffee in a fancy hotel. Showing her obvious jealousy towards her relatives’ success, Jarmusch makes no attempt to ease the tension between the two. The addition of coffee and cigarettes offers each character a comfort blanket to grasp onto during their uneasy encounter. More lighthearted scenes - such as the one with Bill Murray and Wu-Tang members GZA and RZA - offer a more zesty side to the film. Murray, who plays himself in hiding, wears a busboy uniform while gulping coffee straight from the pot. The Wu-Tang members advise Murray of his unhealthy habit offering herbal remedies to correct his smoker’s cough.

Whether it’s the awkward conversations that are shared or the family reunions gone bad, coffee and cigarettes remain the only true companion to the characters in their pathetic efforts to be genuinely honest with each another. But could these two symbols, whose personalities are as bland as the white ceramic dishes they are used with, be the main characters of a feature length film? Jim Jarmusch successfully weaves a pattern of real-life situations in a movie about our passionate relationship with coffee and cigarettes.

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