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Monday, June 10, 2013

Coffee And Cigarettes (And Tea And Rock and Roll and Tesla)

So here's the thing about a film that is just a series of vignettes, it's not particularly easy to analyze, especially when combined with the sheer obtuseness of the dialogue of this film. It is a black and white film made in the early part of the Noughties when something like this could be completely accepted. I feel like the best comparison is Clerks, though this does not have anywhere near the amount of dirty humor that Clerks had, and replaces it with a determined awkwardness. The best way to look at something like this, with somewhat interconnected themes and repeated dialogue but not characters is on a scene by scene basis. I'll do a summary of what the segment means, and any other things that come to mind based off what is seemingly a series of random conversations.

Strange to Meet You

This segment introduces a number of elements that will come up later: chance meetings, the awkwardness of strangers,  the drive behind our obsessions, and most importantly coffee and cigarettes in combination. This bit is one of the funnier segments, whereupon at the end one man agrees to go to the other's dentist appointment. In summary, the world's weird and that's okay, just shut up and drink your coffee.

Steve Buscemi believes that Elvis is still alive and it was his evil twin brother that took over and made him fat. Things that seem similar are often quite different and what we see is oh so rarely what we get. That and the fact that twins aren't the same person, bit of an important thing to remember should you ever meet any.

Somewhere in California

Awkward conversations where it is proved that no one is as famous as they want to believe they are. That and doing a tracheotomy with a ballpoint pen is just a normal day in the life of a musician. Of course anything interesting like that is shoved to the side for passive aggressiveness and general spite.

Those Things's Kill Ya

Cigarettes are actually bad for you, who'd thunk it. That and for some reason the silent treatment works on fathers, especially when it's for a good cause like pea snacks. There was no metaphor there, just another regular strange occurrence in the lives of these people who are similar to us but also quite different, but only as we all are.


Just wanting to talk to someone is a damn shame when they reject you. That and don't trust the lady with gun magazines, I'm sure she could be perfectly nice, but just don't fuck with her coffee. It's not a polite thing to do, even if you're a waiter or busboy as the case may be.


Fame and non-fame at a collide, but all wrapped up in one package as two very different characters are played by the same actor. There are a lot of things to say about how differently society treats celebrities for good and for bad, and this little bit has some good stuff to say on both sides, though it ends up a bit for the negative. 

Jack Shows Meg His Tesla Coil

No metaphor here either. Just a guy who wants to show off his neat little electricity bringing death defying machine. They resurrected the monster I'm sure it's great for showing off to a girl who may or may not be your sister. Of course given the actual actors and all that there's other stuff going on, but just looking at the scene there are equal chances of girlfriend, girl he likes, and sister. Interesting how that is. 


An awkward guy tries to convince a famous actor they're related, and that should mean great things for the both of them. Unfortunately it turns out that fame isn't everything it was cracked up to be, and then everything starts to get recursive, with earlier dialogue playing out exactly again. This is past the halfway point and it is clear this is the real meat of human relationships the film wants to explore, but never quite does in a full way.


Bill Murray meets the Wu-Tang Clan. Hilarity ensures.


Death is inevitable, deal with it.

In summary, people talking about boring subjects in a drab way can be a fascinating insight into the human condition and what it really means to be any number of adjectives, but in the end it can also be really bloody boring. Luckily Coffee and Cigarettes maintains just the right amount of humor and that kind of stiff deflated tension that echoes throughout all British history and still manages to be entertaining. Good on them for a solid film that seeks to do one thing and never stray from the path. Good on them for Bill Murray too, that man is a genius.

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