Harry Potter!


I Hated, Hated, Hated This Movie
by Roger Ebert

. "Coffee and Cigarettes"

I used to think that coffee and cigarettes was the national anesthetic. Back in those days, my poison was wine and dinner. Today, the use of cigarettes is so diminished and so widely frowned upon ("Don't muck up my air, you thoughtless goon"), you'd think bad boy writer-director Jim Jarmusch ("Night on Earth", "Down by Law") would find another theme to repeat. But he doesn't, and in this fourth use of the title (1986-2003) he unleashes his black and white extreme low budget aesthetic on a new and repeating combination of still smokin' actors and performers.

They are more or less convincing in their use of the tar-filled props, but it's clearer than the air around their table that this is just a way of creating a theatre experience for his legions of fans who think he can do no wrong. What we get is a series of talk scenes out of an improv showcase that features a cast that one guesses are Jarmusch pals, some of whom need work and/or exposure (and some who clearly don't).

The scenes vary from barely endurable to flashes of taste, with little to no drama to sweeten the mostly bland brew. The props and settings common to each little scene cements the changes of subject and characters into a visionary whole, but not a particularly cohesive or illuminating one. As a vision it attains little; as a concept it's nearly unjustifiable. But, like said, there are flashes.

After aimlessness with Benigni and Waits, a binary appearance by Cate Blanchett shows us what the term "screen star" means. Out of a milieu of talky randomness comes her scene as a hugely successful executive handing out kindness and gifts to herself as her loser and ne'er-do-well sister, with convincing makeup and wardrobe to match. All right, no lie, the audition reel is tops and I definitely want her for my next picture.

Old reliable Bill Murray is good for a laugh or two during his moment in Jarmusch's wall sconce; Benigni can't find a key to comedy; Waits stretches while waiting for a laugh to come; Buscemi is, at least, self-assured, and the winning thematic moment goes to a wry industry observation vignette with Alfred Molina.

Which brings me back to my initial reminiscence of the days before legal disclosures appeared on the sides of cigarette packs and began the process of tearing down profit potential for tobacco companies, when the title combo had the psychological potency to calm the nerves of an anxious nation. That gone for most of us, Jim Jarmusch's latest film pastiche will induce a level of boredom that could produce the same effect. It's not likely to inspire a revival in black and white filmmaking but we hope this exercise in creative restlessness gets him some real work.

Click for full list of movie reviews

                                      ~~  The Filmiliar Cineaste  

The Soundtrack album


Release order
Alphabetical order
To Jbmovies
(sample frames from movies photographed
by Jules Brenner)

All Reviews
Books, DVDs, Music, Restaurants

Having coffee and cigarettes

Help us to continue
bringing you these reviews...
visit our sponsors (just a click will do it)
Best selling DVDs!