Coffee and Cigarettes (PG) 196 mins

Written and directed by Jim Jarmusch
Showing at FACT from 19th November

Reviewed by Kenn Taylor

Jim Jarmusch - writer and director of such films as Ghost Dog: Way of the Samurai and The Year of the Horse - has now released Coffee and Cigarettes. It’s a feature-length series of short vignettes involving various famous people from Steve Coogan to Jack and Meg White, and they discuss life, the universe, and everything over a ciggy and a cup of espresso (or tea in the cases involving English people).

Touring the various coffee shops of America from back street cafés to luxurious lounges has been a long-term pet project of Jarmusch, with some of the sections of the film dating back to 1986 and involving many people he has worked with in his films and music videos, such as Tom Waits and RZA.

The film is shot in luxurious black and white using only a handful of camera angles, and has a hazy quality that invokes real smoky cafés. There are eleven sections, most of which are no more than ten minutes long.

The sections vary in quality, usually depending on who is in them. Some of the best are 'Somewhere in California', where Iggy Pop and Tom Waits’ eventually decide it’s ok to smoke "now we’ve given up". 'Cousins?', shows Steve Coogan being disturbed to discover he is related to a jobbing actor who wants Steve to "just love him", and 'Delirium' where two members of the Wu-Tang Clan tell Bill Murray oven cleaner is better for you than coffee. Some however (such as 'No Problem' and 'Renée’) seem to drag on without getting anywhere.

Coffee and Cigarettes is occasionally dark and often surreal, but though its interesting to watch it is hardly gripping. Though it is largely dialogue-based the characters actually say very little. The common themes appearing to be the similarities between music and medicine, the importance of inventor Nicholas Tesla, and coffee making your dreams faster.

Maybe that's not the point though, the film is basically celebrating the joys of coffee and cigarettes, a meal Jarmusch calls "The breakfast of champions".