Jim Jarmusch’s Coffee and Cigarettes is a film unlike any you have ever seen. The culmination of nearly two decades of work, Coffee and Cigarettes combines the two diner staples with Jarmusch’s unique eye to create a beautiful piece of cinematic poetry.
Comprised of 11 individual segments (three of which were released as short films in 1986, 1989 and 1995), Coffee and Cigarettes revolves around actors talking about, amongst other things, coffee and cigarettes. The film begins with a segment (the original short released in 1986) entitled “Strange to Meet You”, wherein actor/director Roberto Benigni meets comedian Steven Wright for coffee and cigarettes. The segment comes off as loosely scripted, with each actor playing essentially themselves. As the two make idle conversation, Jarmusch uses various camera angles to detail their encounter. While the camera never pans in any direction, Jarmusch captures their many quirks and unique habits with overhead shots, close-ups and a full-shots of both talking. As the two men’s conversation continues, it gets stranger and more hectic (most likely due to the coffee); yet noting develops. The camera remains focused on them, unceasing in its gaze. Jarmusch is able to find an incredibly deep amount of art in the details of their conversation. He captures this simplistic beauty – the way one smokes, the way the other sips his coffee – in a seemingly instinctive manner, yet there is so much complexity and depth to the imagery. The conversation comes to its natural conclusion, and the men part ways; queue the next segment. The film continues in this fashion ten more times, never breaking form (save for the addition of more actors to the conversations). The repetition is surprisingly engaging, and with a fresh group of actors every couple of minutes, the pacing is relatively quick.