Coffee and Cigarettes

19Jan10

Last week I watched Coffee and Cigarettes – a decidedly indie and unusual little film realeased in 2003 by Jim Jarmusch. An unconventional narrative method defines the movie –  an hour and 35 minutes of stiff, distinctly plotless and dragged out conversations in stark black and white, with the intention of  highlighting the general awkwardness of social conversations, and which are littered with unrefined and in my opinion stiff shots of restaurant tables, cups of coffee and people dragging on cigs, which seek to emphasise the recurring theme which ties together every short – coffee and cigarettes. Now I could go on about how cliched and pretentious a recurring theme this is, not to mention superficial, but I think I’d go on a rant. It annoys me how presumptious this film is, to assume that a series of aimless shorts of people smoking and drinking coffee in various locations gives a sense of western urbanity.

Coffee and Cigarettes

Though it could be argued that the stiffness and general slowness of some of the editing adds to the sense of social awkwardness within the somewhat shallow and unimportant conversations, and is therefore important and interesting because it rejects conventional Hollywood editing in favour of a a less commerical and therefore more artistic narrative, it made my viewing experience very exasperating. After 20 minutes I found myself praying that every short would be the last, and was disappointed when each new title screen appeared.  The superficiality and utter drollness of the majority of the film aside, I don’t exactly believe that the format is necessarily a bad thing, but that it does not work for a feature film, as it is simply not engaging enough to hold a viewers attention for a long period of time. In my opinion the film would have benefited from losing many of the more unremarkable scenes.

Its not all bad, though. Coffee an Cigarettes did indeed have some redeeming features – appearances from actors such as Steve Coogan, Bill Murray and Cate Blanchett late in the film caught my attention long after I had stopped concentrating or listening, and the movie did have sparing moments of humour which saved some of the scenes and made viewing a bit more bearable. Overall I wouldn’t say I particularly enjoyed the film, or that I would watch it again. It was simply too long to carry off a lack of plot, I feel that the black and white didn’t add much to the film, and that it possibly detracted from the personality of the characters,  that a lot of the scenes didn’t have enough humour or punch to be notable or memorable, and that it was devoid of any kind of meaning. Disappointing.

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