Coffee and Cigarettes as a Common Thread

Coffee and Cigarettes is the title of three short films and a 2003 feature film by independent director Jim Jarmusch. The film consists of 11 short stories which share coffee and cigarettes as a common thread, and includes the earlier three films.

 
 

The film is composed of a comic series of short vignettes shot in black and white built on one another to create a cumulative effect, as the characters discuss things such as caffeine popsicles, Paris in the 1920s, and the use of nicotine as an insecticide – all the while sitting around drinking coffee and smoking cigarettes. The theme of the film is absorption in the obsessions, joys, and addictions of life, and there are many common threads between vignettes, such as the Tesla coil, medical knowledge, the suggestion that coffee and cigarettes don’t make for a healthy meal (generally lunch), cousins, The Lees (Cinqué, Joie, and a mention of Spike), delirium, miscommunication, musicians, the similarities between musicianship and medical skill, industrial music, acknowledged fame, and the idea of drinking coffee before sleeping in order to have fast dreams. In each of the segments of the film, the common motif of alternating black and white tiles can be seen in some fashion. The visual use of black and white relates to the theme of interpersonal contrasts, as each vignette features two people who disagree completely yet manage to sit amicably at the same table.

The eleven segments that make up the film are as follows:

Strange to Meet You
This is the original 1986 short Coffee and Cigarettes with Roberto Benigni and Steven Wright having a conversation about coffee and cigarettes.

Twins
Originally the 1989 short Coffee and Cigarettes, Memphis Version – aka Coffee and Cigarettes II – this segment features Joie Lee and Cinqué Lee as the titular twins and Steve Buscemi as the waiter who expounds on his theory on Elvis Presley‘s evil twin. Cinqué Lee also appears in Jack Shows Meg his Tesla Coil. The scene also features a recounting of the urban legend that Elvis Presley made racist comments about Blacks during a magazine interview.

Somewhere in California
Filmed in 1993 as the short Coffee and CigarettesSomewhere in California, and won the Short Film Palme d’Or at the Cannes Film Festival. In this segment musicians Iggy Pop and Tom Waits smoke cigarettes to celebrate that they quit smoking, drink some coffee and make awkward conversation.

Those Things’ll Kill Ya
Joseph Rigano and Vinny Vella have a conversation over coffee about the dangers of smoking. The silent Vinny Vella Jr. also appears to beg his father for money, which is given in exchange for affection, which is not provided.

Renée
Renée French (played by herself) drinks coffee while looking through a gun magazine. E. J. Rodríguez plays the waiter, who is eager to be of service. He initially approaches her to serve more coffee, to which she reacts by saying “I had the right color, right temperature, it was just right”. After that, he comes back several times, hesitates, and leaves. He seems intent on striking a conversation with her.

No Problem
Alex Descas and Isaach De Bankolé are a couple of friends who meet and talk over some coffee and cigarettes. Alex has no problems, or so he answers to Isaach’s repeated questioning. At the end of the scene, Alex takes out a pair of dice and rolls three sets of doubles. It could be assumed that Alex Descas has an excessive gambling problem but to him it is not a problem because of what he can roll. Notice he doesn’t roll the dice in front of his friend.

Cousins
Cate Blanchett plays herself and a fictional and non-famous cousin named Shelly, whom she meets over some coffee in the lounge of a hotel. There is no smoking in the lounge, as the waiter informs Shelly (but not until Cate is gone). Shelly tells Cate about her boyfriend, Lee, who is in a band. She describes the music style as hard industrial, similar to the band Iggy describes. Cate tells Shelly she looks forward to meeting “Lou” someday.

Jack Shows Meg His Tesla Coil
Features Jack and Meg White of the band The White Stripes having some coffee and cigarettes. They play themselves, although the scene seems to perpetuate the band’s former pretense that they are indeed siblings. Jack shows Meg his Tesla coil that he says he built himself and waxes intellectual on the achievements of Nikola Tesla. In the beginning, Jack seems upset that Meg doesn’t share his excitement, and it takes Meg some coaxing to get Jack to agree to show Meg his Tesla Coil. He introduces the line, “Nikola Tesla perceived the earth to be a conductor of acoustical resonance.” Cinqué Lee plays a waiter in this segment. In the end, the coil breaks, and Meg and the Waiter offer suggestions as to why it might be broken. Finally Meg says something that Jack seems to agree to, and he leaves to “go home and check it out”. Meg clinks her coffee cup to produce a ringing noise, pauses, says “Earth is a conductor of acoustical resonance” and clinks her coffee cup to produce the noise again; she looks pensively out into the distance before a cut to black. Early during the segment, Down on the Street by The Stooges is played in the background.

Cousins?
British actors Alfred Molina and Steve Coogan have a conversation over some tea. (Coogan offers Molina a French cigarette, but Molina “saves” his for later.) Molina compliments Coogan’s designer jacket but notes that it will make him hot in the 85 degree Los Angeles heat. Molina works up to presenting his evidence that the two are distant cousins. Coogan rebuffs Molina until Katy Hansz asks Steve Coogan for an autograph, and Coogan won’t give out his phone number to Molina. Then when Alfred Molina gets a call from his friend Spike Jonze, Coogan tries to make amends, but it is too late, and he regrets missing the chance to make the connection. Although they say they are in LA, the segment was actually shot in Brooklyn at Galapagos, Williamsburg.

Delirium
Hip-hop artists (and cousins) GZA and RZA of the Wu-Tang Clan drink naturally caffeine-free herbal tea and have a conversation with the waiter, Bill Murray, about the dangers of caffeine and nicotine. During this conversation GZA makes a reference to how he would drink lots of coffee before going to bed so his dreams would “whip by” similar to the camera-shots at the Indy 500, very similar to the same reference that Steven Wright did in the first segment. Murray requests that GZA and RZA keep his identity secret, while GZA and RZA inform Murray about nontraditional methods to relieve his smoker’s hack.

Champagne
William “Bill” Rice and former Andy Warhol superstar Taylor Mead spend their coffee break having a nostalgic conversation, whilst Janet Baker singing “Ich bin der Welt abhanden gekommen” from Gustav Mahler‘s Rückert-Lieder appears from nowhere. William Rice repeats Jack White’s line, “Nikola Tesla perceived the earth as a conductor of acoustical resonance.” It is possible to interpret the relevance of this line to the constant recurrent themes throughout the seemingly unconnected segments.

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Cracked Actor Meditating Upon a Skull

David Bowie snarling and holding a skull with a rose between its teeth

 
 

Photo by Michael Tweed

 
 

David Bowie sings in concert during his Serious Moonlight Tour in 1983. The skull is a reference to the “Alas, poor Yorick” scene of Hamlet. Photo by Neal Preston

 
 

Cracked Actor is a song written by David Bowie, originally released on the album Aladdin Sane in April 1973.

One of the album’s hard rockers, the song is about an aging Hollywood star in an encounter with a prostitute, the chorus including various allusions to sex and drugs:

“Crack, baby, crack, show me you’re real
Smack, baby, smack, is that all that you feel
Suck, baby, suck, give me your head
Before you start professing that you’re knocking me dead…”

Rolling Stone suggested that Bowie’s goal was “to strip the subject of his validity, as he has done with the rocker, as a step towards a re-definition of these roles and his own inhabiting of them”. However NME writers Roy Carr and Charles Shaar Murray considered that the song “reveals little else except that Bowie’s capabilities with a mouth-harp are decidedly limited”.

Cracked Actor became a centerpiece of Bowie’s 1974 North American tour when he would perform the song wearing sunglasses and holding a skull (à la Hamlet), which he would then proceed to French kiss.

 
 

 
 

The track also gave its name to Alan Yentob‘s documentary of the tour. In 1983 Bowie revived the song and the sunglasses-and-skull routine for his Serious Moonlight Tour. The documentary depicts Bowie on tour in Los Angeles, using a mixture of documentary sequences filmed in limousines and hotels, and concert footage. Most of the concert footage was taken from a show at the Los Angeles Universal Amphitheatre on 2 September 1974. There were also excerpts from D.A. Pennebaker‘s concert film Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars, which had been shot at London’s Hammersmith Odeon on 3 July 1973, as well as a few other performances from the tour. Cracked Actor is notable for being a source for footage of Bowie’s ambitious Diamond Dogs Tour. The title of the documentary was originally to be The Collector, after a comment that Bowie had made to interviewer Russell Harty the previous year, whereby he described himself as “a collector of accents”.

 
 

The documentary can be seen in The Genealogy of Style’s Facebook page

Perfectly Satisfactory

Hunky Dory gave me a fabulous groundswell. I guess it provided me, for the first time in my life, with an actual audience – I mean, people actually coming up to me and saying, ‘Good album, good songs.’ That hadn’t happened to me before. It was like, ‘Ah, I’m getting it, I’m finding my feet. I’m starting to communicate what I want to do. Now: what is it I want to do?’ There was always a double whammy there.”

David Bowie

 
 

Hunky Dory is the fourth album by English singer-songwriter David Bowie, released by RCA Records in 1971. It was his first release through RCA, which would be his label for the next decade. Hunky Dory has been described by Allmusic’s Stephen Thomas Erlewine as having “a kaleidoscopic array of pop styles, tied together only by Bowie’s sense of vision: a sweeping, cinematic mélange of high and low art, ambiguous sexuality, kitsch, and class.” The slang hunky dory (of uncertain origin), would mean perfectly satisfactory, about as well as one could wish or expect; fine

 
 

The style of the album cover was influenced by a Marlene Dietrich photo book that Bowie brought with him to the photo session, which was taken by Brian Ward. Terry Pastor achieved the silk-screen printing appearance in the manner of Andy Warhol, using an airbrush. However,  the album’s sleeve would bear the credit “Produced by Ken Scott (assisted by the actor)”. The “actor” was Bowie himself, whose “pet conceit”, in the words of NME critics Roy Carr and Charles Shaar Murray, was “to think of himself as an actor”. George Underwood was also involved in the creative process of the album cover design.

 
 

The opening track, Changes, focused on the compulsive nature of artistic reinvention (“Strange fascination, fascinating me/Changes are taking the pace I’m going through”) and distancing oneself from the rock mainstream (“Look out, you rock ‘n’ rollers”). However, the composer also took time to pay tribute to his influences with the tracks Song for Bob Dylan, Andy Warhol and the Velvet Underground inspired Queen Bitch.

Following the hard rock of Bowie’s previous album The Man Who Sold the World, Hunky Dory saw the partial return of the fey pop singer of Space Oddity, with light fare such as Kooks (dedicated to his young son, known to the world as Zowie Bowie but legally named Duncan Zowie Haywood Jones) and the cover “Fill Your Heart” sitting alongside heavier material like the occult-tinged Quicksand and the semi-autobiographical The Bewlay Brothers. Between the two extremes was Oh! You Pretty Things, whose pop tune hid lyrics, inspired by Friedrich Nietzsche, predicting the imminent replacement of modern man by “the Homo Superior”, and which has been cited as a direct precursor to Starman from Bowie’s next album The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars.

“Punctuation is: Pretty Much Everything”

“The stop point out, with truth, the time of pause
A sentence doth require at ev’ry clause.
At ev’ry comma, stop while one you count;
At semicolon, two is the amount;
A colon doth require the time of three;
The period four, as learned men agree”

Cecil Hartley

 
 

“On the page, punctuation performs its grammatical function, but in the mind of the reader it does more than that. It tells the reader how to hum the tune.”

Lynn Truss

Eats, Shoots and Leaves

 
 

Punctuation is historically an aid to reading aloud (vis George Bernard Shaw). Quite so, punctuation marks are symbols that indicate the structure and organization of written language, as well as intonation and pauses to be observed when reading aloud. The rules of punctuation vary with language, location, register and time and are constantly evolving. Certain aspects of punctuation are stylistic and are thus the author’s (or editor’s) choice.

 

In 2010, photographers Inez van Lamsweerde and Vinoodh Matadin collaborated with artists M/M Paris (an art and design partnership consisting of Mathias Augustyniak and Michael Amzalag) on a series of collages featuring various celebrities as punctuation marks as part of their Pretty Much Everything retrospective.

 
 

Asterisk ( * )

 
 

From Greek: ἀστερίσκος, asteriskos, “little star”. The asterisk  is a typographical symbol or glyph derived from the need of the printers of family trees in feudal times for a symbol to indicate date of birth. This symbol is used to call out a footnote, especially when there is only one on the page. Less commonly, multiple asterisks are used to denote different footnotes on a page (i.e., *, **, ***). Typically, an asterisk is positioned after a word or phrase and preceding its accompanying footnote. Asterisks are sometimes used as an alternative to typographical bullets to indicate items of a list. Asterisks are sometimes used as an alternative to typographical bullets to indicate items of a list.

 
 

Lewis Carroll‘s looking-glass world is divided into sections by brooks or streams, with the crossing of each brook usually signifying a notable change in the scene and action of the story: the brooks represent the divisions between squares on the chessboard, and Alice’s crossing of them signifies advancing of her piece one square. Most editions of the book visually represent the crossings by breaking the text with several lines of asterisks ( * * * ).

 
 

Björk

 
 

Slash ( / )

 
 

The slash goes back to the days of ancient Rome. In the early modern period, in the Fraktur script, which was widespread through Europe in the Middle Ages, one slash (/) represented a comma, while two slashes (//) represented a dash. The two slashes eventually evolved into a sign similar to the equals sign (=), then being further simplified to a single dash or hyphen (–). Is a sign used as a punctuation mark and for various other purposes. It is often called a forward slash (a retronym used to distinguish the slash from the backslash, “\”), and many other alternative names. The slash is most commonly used as the word substitute for “or” which indicates a choice (often mutually-exclusive) is present. The slash is also used to indicate a line break when quoting multiple lines from a poem, play, or headline; or in an ordinary prose quotation, the start of a new paragraph.

 
 

Vanessa Redgrave

 
 

Period ( . )

 
 

A full stop (British English, Hiberno-English, Australian English, and New Zealand English) or period (American English and Canadian English) is the punctuation mark placed to indicate the end of sentences. In the context of web addresses and computing in general, it is typically called a dot. In conversation, as opposed to linguistics, the term is often used to mean “the end of the matter” (for example, “We are calling a full stop to discussions on this subject” or “We will not do it. Period!”).

 

The full stop symbol derives from Aristophanes of Byzantium who invented the system of punctuation where the height of placement of a dot on the line determined its meaning. The high dot (˙) was called a “periodos” and indicated a finished thought or sentence, the middle dot (·) was called a “kolon” and indicated part of a complete thought, while the low dot (.) was called a “telia” and also indicated part of a complete thought.

 
 

Mickey Rourke

 
 

Comma ( )

 
 

Is used in many contexts and languages, principally for separating things. It has the same shape as an apostrophe or single closing quotation mark in many typefaces, but it differs from them in being placed on the baseline of the text. Some typefaces render it as a small line, slightly curved or straight but inclined from the vertical, or with the appearance of a small, filled-in number 9. It is used to separate parts of a sentence such as clauses and lists of three or more things.

 
 

In the 3rd century BC, Aristophanes of Byzantium invented a system of single dots (distinctiones) that separated verses (colometry), and indicated the amount of breath needed to complete each fragment of text, when reading aloud.

 
 

Jim Jarmusch

 
 

Open bracket ( (  )

 
 

Close bracket ( ) )

 
 

Brackets are tall punctuation marks used in matched pairs within text, to set apart or interject other text. Used unqualified, brackets refer to different types of brackets in different parts of the world and in different contexts. Erasmus of Rotterdam coined the term lunula to refer to the rounded parentheses (), recalling the round shape of the moon.

 
 

Bill Murray

 
 

Open guillemets ( « )

 
 

Also called angle quotes or French quotation marks, are polylines, pointed as if arrows (« or »), sometimes forming a complementary set of punctuation marks used as a form of quotation mark. They are used in a number of languages to indicate speech. They resemble (but are not the same as) the symbols for lesser than (<), greater than (>), and for left and right bit shifts in some programming languages, as well as rewind and fast forward on various media players, such as VCRs, DVD players, and MP3 players. The word is a diminutive of the French name Guillaume (the equivalent of which in English is William), after the French printer and punchcutter Guillaume Le Bé (1525–98).

 
 

Daniel Day-Lewis

 
 

Colon ( : )

 
 

The colon is a punctuation mark consisting of two equally sized dots centered on the same vertical line.English colon is from Latin colon (plural cola), itself from Greek κῶλον “limb, member, portion”, in rhetoric or prosody especially a part or section of a sentence or a rhythmical period of an utterance. In palaeography, a colon is a clause or group of clauses written as a line. Use of the : symbol to mark the discontinuity of a grammatical construction, or a pause of a length intermediate between that of a semicolon and that of a period, was introduced in English orthography around 1600.

 
 

Mia Farrow photographed for a Gap Ad

 
 

Semicolon ( ; )

 
 

It is a punctuation mark with several uses. The Italian printer Aldus Manutius the Elder established the practice of using the semicolon to separate words of opposed meaning and to indicate interdependent statements. Modern uses of the semicolon relate either to the listing of items or to the linking of related clauses. A semicolon is used when a sentence could have been ended, but it wasn’t.

 
 

Juliette Binoche

 
 

Exclamation ( ! )

 
 

The exclamation mark is a punctuation mark usually used after an interjection or exclamation to indicate strong feelings or high volume (shouting), and often marks the end of a sentence. One theory of its origin is that it was a Latin exclamation of joy (io), written with the I above the o. The exclamation mark was first introduced into English printing in the 15th century, and was called the “sign of admiration or exclamation” or the “note of admiration” until the mid-17th century;  admiration referred to its Latin sense of wonderment.

 
 

Clint Eastwood

 
 

Question mark ( ? )

 
 

Also known as an interrogation point, interrogation mark, question point, query, or eroteme), is a punctuation mark that replaces the full stop (period) at the end of an interrogative sentence in English and many other languages. The question mark is not used for indirect questions. The question mark character is also often used in place of missing or unknown data.

 

The symbol is sometimes thought to originate from the Latin quaestiō (that is, qvaestio), meaning “question”, which was abbreviated during the Middle Ages to qo. The lowercase q was written above the lowercase o, and this mark was transformed into the modern symbol. However, evidence of the actual use of the Q-over-o notation in medieval manuscripts is lacking; if anything, medieval forms of the upper component seem to be evolving towards the q-shape rather than away from it.

 
 

Natalie Portman

 
 

Ampersand ( & )

 
 

It’s a logogram representing the conjunction word “and”. This symbol is a ligature of the letters et, Latin for “and”. The word ampersand is a corruption of the phrase “and (&) per se and”, meaning “and (the symbol &) intrinsically (is the word) and”. In film credits for stories, screenplays, etc., & indicates a closer collaboration than and.