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Year: 2003
USA: Metro-Goldwyn-Meyer/United Artists
UK: Tartan Films
Cast: Roberto Benigni, Steven Wright, Joie Lee, Cinque Lee, Steve Buscemi, Iggy Pop, Tom Waits, Joe Rigano, Vinny Vella, Vinny Vella Jr, Renee French, E J Rodriguez, Alex Descas, Isaach De Bankole, Cate Blanchett, Jack White, Meg White, Alfred Molina, Steve Coogan, GZA, RZA, Bill Murray, Bill Rice, Taylor Read
Director: Jim Jarmusch
Country: USA
UK: 96 mins
USA Rated: R for language
UK Certificate: 15 contains strong language
USA Release Date: 14 May 2004 (Limited Release)
UK Release Date: 22 October 2004


COFFEE AND CIGARETTES is a series of short films disguised as a feature (or maybe vice versa). Each sequence involves several characters just sitting around, drinking coffee, smoking cigarettes and discussing subjects as diverse as caffeine popsicles, Abbott & Costello, Elvis conspiracy theories, the proper preparation of English tea, the inventions of Nikola Tesla, the fictitious rock band SQuRL, Paris in the twenties, and the use of nicotine as an insecticide...The cast is an extremely eclectic group of extraordinary actors and musicians portraying an equally eclectic collection of oddballs, with sequences strikingly photographed in BLACK (coffee) and WHITE (cigarettes) by Frederick Elmes, Robby Muller, Ellen Kuras and Tom DiCillo. - Jim Jarmusch

COFFEE AND CIGARETTES is a comic series of short vignettes that build on one another to create a cumulative effect as the characters discuss things as diverse as caffeine popsicles, Paris in twenties, and the use of nicotine as an insecticide all the while sitting around sipping coffee and smoking cigarettes. As Jarmusch delves into the normal pace of our world from an extraordinary angle, he shows just how absorbing the obsessions, joys, and addictions of life can be. Filmed in black and white, COFFEE AND CIGARETTES made its world premiere at the Venice International Film Festival, out of competition in 2003.

Background Information

In 1986, Jim Jarmusch was asked by 'SATURDAY NIGHT LIVE' to create a short film for the show. The result was COFFEE AND CIGARETTES and called 'Strange to Meet You' in the feature. Tom Dicillo, who had shot STRANGER THAN PARADISE, was the director of photography. The short was broadcast on the programme and was also shown in festivals.

The first COFFEE AND CIGARETTES film set the stage for what would be a long-term project for Jarmusch, a series of conversations about coffee and cigarettes, linked by themes and style into one feature film. All were filmed in black and white, usually employing consistent visual motifs - for example, an overhead shot of the table - to unify the larger piece. Jarmusch's screenplay worked a host of variations on the basic interchanges centring on coffee and cigarettes, but repeated references, jokes and metaphors created a throughline. Most of the people chosen to be part of the project were friends of the writer/director, but some, like Steve Coogan or Cate Blanchett, were simply people he wanted to work with. Though at times the actors appear to be playing 'themselves', the scripts were either completely fictional or at most exaggerated versions of the people's personalities or public personas as tailored by the script.

The second instalment of the film was shot in 1989, while Jarmusch was in Memphis filming MYSTERY TRAIN. It featured two actors from the film, Cinque Lee and Steve Buscemi, plus Lee's sister Joie, and was shot by the movie's director of photography, Robby Muller. The film (TWINS in the feature) played festivals as Coffee and Cigarettes: Memphis Version.

In 1992, Jarmusch filmed a third segment in Northern California, COFFEE AND CIGARETTES: SOMEWHERE IN CALIFORNIA, starring Tom Waits and Iggy Pop, and lensed by Frederick Elmes (NIGHT ON EARTH, BLUE VELVET). This won the Golden Palm at the 1993 Cannes Film Festival as Best Short Film.

Returning to New York, Jarmusch shot two more scenes in one day, RENeE (with Renee French and E. J. Rodriguez) and NO PROBLEM (with Alex Descas and Isaach de Bankole). Ellen Kuras (ETERNAL SUNSHINE OF THE SPOTLESS MIND) served as director of photography.

Jarmusch filmed the remaining six parts of COFFEE AND CIGARETTES in two weeks in early 2003. THOSE THING'LL KILL YA, (Joe Rigano and Vinny Vella), COUSINS (Cate Blanchett), JACK SHOWS MEG HIS TELSA COIL (Jack and Meg White), COUSINS? (Alfred Molina and Steve Coogan), DELERIUM (GZA, RZA, Bill Murray) and CHAMPAGNE (Taylor Mead and Bill Rice).

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