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Cigarettes and coffee, man, that's a combination.
Character's sing the praises of this combination throughout the short stories of Jim Jarmusch's 2003 Coffee and Cigarettes. The film includes 11 vignettes, each featuring two characters, often actors playing themselves, meeting over nicotine and caffeine. The scenes range in tone from satirical to Beckett-like absurdism, but work together for a comedic discussion on the joys of addiction in Jarmush's bleak signature style.
In the opening scene, "Strange to Meet You," Roberto Benigni and Steven Wright share an awkward but amicable conversation over a pack of cigarettes and several cups of espresso mixed with heaps of sugar. Though there is seemingly nothing to talk about, and no reason for the meeting, they find genuine affection for one another in their shared vices. With shaking hands and twitching eyes Steven Wright explains how coffee helps him dream faster. The scene ends with Benigni graciously offering to take Wright's dental appointment off his hands.
In "Somewhere in California" Iggy Pop and Tom Waits find a discarded pack of cigarettes and decide to celebrate quitting with a quick smoke. In words all smokers have heard and said before, Tom Waits remarks, "The beauty of quitting is, now that I've quit, I can have one, 'cause I've quit." Although bitter and offended by everything Iggy says, Waits is disappointed when he has to go and even tempts him to stay with another cigarette.
In perhaps the film's most notorious match up, "Delerium," RZA and GZA of The Wu Tang Clan find Bill Murray covertly serving coffee in a restaurant. RZA and GZA give Murray advice on his addiction to cigarettes and coffee, which he drinks directly from the pot, citing an impressive knowledge of chemical history and processes. As it turns out, RZA is a doctor specializing in alternative medicines. Murray figures anything that was once used as an insecticide has got to be good for you.
Although at least one character in every scene denounces the evils of coffee and cigarettes, the film portrays these socially acceptable drug habits in a rather romantic light. Coffee and cigarettes contrast brilliantly against one another in this black and white film. Although burnt and ashy, there is something appetizing about the combination. In every scene the characters rarely get along, but there is an unspoken codependency, linking them by their common drug choice. Coffee and cigarettes have made them all miserable, and misery loves company.