Directed by Jim Jarmusch, starring Roberto Benigni, Steven Wright, Joie Lee, Cate Blanchett, Steve Coogan, Iggy Pop and Tom Waits.
This feature release of indie director Jim Jarmusch's 'Coffee and Cigarettes' has its antecedents in a short film made for 'Saturday Night Live' in 1986. Originally titled 'Coffee and Cigarettes' - here renamed 'Strange to Meet You' - it featured Roberto Benigni and Steven Wright drinking and smoking, making conversation and misunderstanding each other over a rambling six minutes.
Since then Jarmusch has worked on a series of these shorts, linked visually (filmed in black and while, using repetitive overhead table shots) by theme (coffee and cigarettes) and structurally (people meeting up for a brew, a fag and a chat). He - lazily - describes this release as "a series of short films disguised as a feature (or maybe vice versa)."
If you're not a massive fan of Jarmusch's work, it's a hit and miss affair. Luckily, as with MTV in the days when it showed music videos, you know it won't be long until the scenery changes and you just might get something that you do like. 'Somewhere in California', starring Tom Waits and Iggy Pop as themselves, is a masterful riff on the awkwardness of a meeting between two people who don't know each other. Waits is as surly as you might think while Pop's desire to be liked by the great man is sweetly humbling - and has a gentle sting in the tail.
In 'Cousins', a study in jealousy and condescension, Cate Blanchett the actress meets her trashy cousin, also played by Cate Blanchett. Another high point is the Wu Tang Clan's GZA and RZA's encounter with waiter Bill Murray in 'Delerium' and then there's Alfred Molina and Steve Coogan's entertaining performances in 'Cousins?'
Aside from those highlights, the others - thankfully - fade fast from the memory. Pretentious? Sure, but you don't care if it works. When it doesn't though...