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Coffee And Cigarettes (Blu-ray Review)

Coffee-and-CigarettesJim Jarmusch’s Coffee and Cigarettes was a film that came out of making three short films sharing that title.  The feature film doesn’t stray too far and really is a series of eleven short films or vignettes.  What they all carry in common are the fact that the whole movie is just about different people sitting at a table literally enjoying coffee and cigarettes.  The title does not lie.  This film received some festival buzz around 2003 when it came out and Jarmusch is a pretty popular (Yet more underground) filmmaker, so yeah, even if this is a Clerks situation, lets bring this sucker to the Blu-ray format.  Its coming from the wonderful people over a Olive Films and will be available for purchase (Pre-order now, please) on Tuesday, November 15th.

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Film 

Comprised of eleven vignettes whose topics range from the theories of Nikola Tesla and caffeine popsicles to the possibility that Elvis had an evil twin, Coffee and Cigarettes is a cinematic celebration of life and its addictions featuring an eclectic cast of performers including Bill Murray (Broken Flowers), Cate Blanchett (Blue Jasmine), Roberto Benigni (Life is Beautiful), Iggy Pop (Cry-Baby), Tom Waits (Ironweed), Joie Lee (Do The Right Thing), Steve Buscemi (Fargo), Alfred Molina (Prick up Your Ears) and Steve Coogan (Philomena).

While this film is dated 2003, make no mistake about it, you could very much mistake this thing for being from the mid-90s.  Akin to something like Clerks and being an indie based pretty much around nothing but conversation, its a primal movie to its core.  Yeah, that’s a bit easy of a generalization to make on it, but damn, take a quick look at it and tell me that’s not exactly what connection you’re making.  And being able to look back now, it feels almost like a precursor to the indie subgenre of film they label “mumblecore”.

At times, this is a much higher scored movie than I gave it and at times its worse.  With a set of 11 vignettes that play throughout with a similar setting and sometimes conversation topic, it can get a little repetitious and vanilla.  This thing all plays on the strength of the former and the territory they are able to delve into.  Like any horror anthology, there are going to be ones you don’t like and ones that you really enjoy.  It depends on the subject matter, and if you’re keeping your ears perked, you’ll noticed some similar topics and themes that make more than one appearance in it.

I’m not going to go short by short here and talk about them all, but my favorites happened to be the Alfred Molina/Steve Coogan, Iggy Pop/Tom Waits and of course the RZA/GZA/Billy Murray entry.  There are times you find yourself really engaged and have some giggles.  However, there are times where the movie could come close to losing you.  What Jarmusch should be praised for is knowing how to never overwelcome the stay of your shorts and with eleven that’s a good thing.

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Video 

Encoding: MPEG-4 AVC

Resolution: 1080p

Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1

Layers: BD-50

Clarity/Detail:  Coffee and Cigarettes come with a very good transfer that a does a little more than the trick to get to Blu-ray.  The film has a nice layer of grain allowing natural details to seep through.  Clothing textures look good, but its the shots of the table with the coffees, cigarette packs, ash trays and overall wood grain that are the best things about this.  Its a good image, but one akin to something like Clerks than any sort of prestige films or even big catalog ones due to the nature of how this was shot.

Depth:  Some good work done here in terms of characters at their table in relation to the background and rest of the diner or restaurant that they are in.  Movements are cinematic and smooth.

Black Levels:  Blacks are deep in here and carry a heavier grain.  Detail is still quite awesome and plenty clear here in the image.  No crushing was witnessed during this view.

Color Reproduction:  N/A

Flesh Tones:  Skin tones keep a good black and white with some gray in the palette in their appearance and maintain it throughout.  In close ups you can get a good look at some facial texutre, moles, freckles, stubble, wrinkles and more.

Noise/Artifacts:  There is a good level of grain here, but I didn’t notice much else.

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Audio 

Audio Format(s): English 5.1 DTS-HD MA

Subtitles: English

Dynamics:  Well, 5.1 eh?  For Coffee and Cigarettes?  Okay.  While there are 5 active channels and a sub, the only thing you’re getting here is front heavy track.  The front three give a nice loud and accurately distinctive performance in this well balanced mix.  There’s not score, but sound effects and ambiance come aplenty and this manages to do them a good service by fitting in with the film rather than distracting it.

Height: N/A

Low Frequency Extension:  Not much going on at all here due to the nature of the film.  Maybe a pot setting down or some vocals get a tiny bit of vibration from the subwoofer.

Surround Sound Presentation:  Once again, nothing much to report here, 5.1 is overkill for this film and should have rested on a 2.0 track.  Here there’s nothing to really discuss from these speakers as they may do something once every blue moon.

Dialogue Reproduction:  Vocals are loud, crisp and clear.  They needed to be great here and they most certainly aspire to that in this mix.

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Extras 

Trailer (HD, 2:05)

Interview With Taylor Mead (HD, 4:10) – Vintage interview with the actor from a press junket session for the film.

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Summary 

Coffee and Cigarettes has an almost even line between working and not working.  Working pretty well is this Blu-ray release.  Picture quality is quite good as well as having a nice solid 5.1 track.  Jarmusch fans and those who dig the film should probably find enough here to enjoy.  While I was overall lukewarm on the film, it does have very bright shining spots and the right idea.

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Writer/Reviewer, lifelong obsessive film nerd. As eager to educate in the world of film as I am to learn. An avid lover of horror, schlock and trash, Brandon hosts the Cult Cinema Cavalcade podcast on the Creative Zombie Studios Network (www.cultcinemacavalcade.com) You can also find more essays on his blog Naptown Nerd (naptownnerd.blogspot.com).

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