COFFEE AND CIGARETTES is a playful, complex film and so is its maker, Jim Jarmusch. And, fittingly, so was the conversation we had about that film, which opened the San Francisco International Film Festival after playing to sold-out crowds at the Toronto Film Festival. Tesla, metaphysics, and the putative collective consciousness of pigeons all had their moments mixed in with discussions of the precise technical details that make Jarmusch’s films the type of cinematic experience that demands more than one viewing. More than two, actually, now that I think about it.
Are you a bug, Bill Murray? It’s an odd question, but in the context of Jim Jarmuschs brilliant consideration of human interaction, COFFEE AND CIGARETTES, there is both genius and poetry to it. This series of vignettes filmed in glossy, nostalgic black and white examines ten different conversations that on the surface have nothing in common but the eponymous addictions. And an odd assortment of tables with checkerboard patterns. Look closer, though, listen between the lines and suddenly there’s a universe of moments that are perhaps tangential, but nonetheless all interconnected.
COFFEE AND CIGARETTES subtly builds to a crescendo as we eavesdrop on these folks, arriving at the penultimate vignette entitled Delirium, the one in which the bug question is posed and the true effects of caffeine and nicotine are revealed by Gza and The Rza as received wisdom blends with a practical joke. Jarmusch sends us on our way with the gentle Champagne where reality and imagination merge to the strains of Mahler and the imagined wonders of other times and other places. Its an ideal ending to this mind expanding trip.
I spoke to Jarmusch on April 16, 2004.