> Volume 6 > Number 24


Jim Jarmusch

Roberto Benigni
Steven Wright
Iggy Pop
Tom Waits
Cate Blanchett
Jack White
Meg White
Alfred Molina
Steve Coogan
Bill Murray

Release: 14 May 04

Coffee and Cigarettes


Supposedly those two vices go perfectly together -- entire cultures (namely the French) swear by them. And yet their marriage, however many artistic coups have been accessorized with them, forms an indistinct and wholly uneven mélange of short films under the direction of twofer connoisseur Jim Jarmusch. The director has always walked upon the fine line between utter pretentiousness and sheer genius, making films on both sides, but never has he made the connection so clear within a single film. Coffee and Cigarettes isn’t so much a disaster, just a work that plays itself for better and worse.

Joined by a cast of 24 major and minor actors, actresses, musicians, and friends, Jarmusch presents 11 short films connected by a similar aesthetic: black and white cinematography with dialogue punctuated by cigarette smoke and coffee sips. The idea isn’t particularly engaging, but the actors who fill it are mostly pros who should be able to liven the material, a guest list that includes Bill Murray, Roberto Benigni, Tom Waits, Steven Wright, Iggy Pop, Cate Blanchett, and Alfred Molina. The only problem is that, outside of a couple successes, no one can stave off the slow, monotonous death of this film as it piddles from one boring scenario to another.

There are exceptions, which reminds the viewer that releasing a couple scenes as short films might have been more fortuitous. Blanchett is terrific in her performance as herself and the twin cousin who’s lack of success in life has left the two relatives with nothing in common. The real treat, however, is in the painfully short confrontation between Molina and Steve Coogan. Both relatively B-list in Hollywood (Molina, though, has the chance of rising with Spider-Man 2), Jarmusch and the actors have fun ridiculing the egotistical behavior of Coogan after the moderate success of 24 Hour Party People. It’s enough to make the viewer excited to watch the rest of the shorts, none of which ever life up to the imaginative overture

©2004, David Perry,, 11 June 2004