1 - Strange to meet you : Roberto Benigni, Steven Wright
Steve and Steve meet in a dirty bar, they are uncomfortable, don't
seem to know what to talk about, yet can't express their satisfaction
to be together. Instead of talking weather-type empty discussions,
they go for coffe and cigarettes small talks. They compare their
taste in search for common points that could connect them. They
switch seats, in an attempt to be in eachother's shoes, symbolicaly,
looking from the other's POV, maybe to get closer to eachother
which the verbal exchange fails to achieve. This uncongruous experience
is not pleasing and the homonymous (interchangeable?) Steve's
go back to their original seat. One Steve (Wright)looks for an
excuse to get out of these uncomfortable silence, and mentions
a dentist appointment (which is the archetype of excruciating
task anybody wants to avoid). In a quite surrealist mood, the
other Steve offers to go for him with an unexpected enthousiasm.
You have to admit there is more than useless realist moments of
daily life here! It's not a simple observation, the artist translates
daily bits into a parable by introducing poetry : Both characters
are named Steve, to add confusion, the interchangeability is hinted
many times, the conclusion is unexpected and absurd.
2 - Twins : Steve Buscemi, Cinqué Lee (Spike Lee's
siblings), Joie Lee +++
Heckle & Jeckle,
3 - Somewhere in California : Tom Waits, Iggy Pop +++
Iggy Pop meets Tom Waits at a 50ies diner. They both look up the
jukebox playlist for any of their songs, like a fame reality check!
that's how vain rock stars are... They are cool, but distance
is tangible, as if their notoriety/status/standing/competition
was a barrier peventing any spontaneous familiarity like the best
friends they are. Each play himself, although we can tell the
awkward affected discomfort is unatural for the purpose of this
mood study. Jarmusch plays wth us and with two of his best bussies,
on distanciation again. He gives us famous figures who play under
their real name, while forcing upon them exagerated behaviors
that might not reflect their real life image. It's quite the actors'
paradoxe to be filmed in a faked slice of their own life.
The subject unfolds around the P.C. justifying smulacre of smoking-quiters
who pretend it's alright to taste just one ciggie since they quit.
It can't be as bad as an addicted smoker who didnt quit. The double
speech to save appearances and find moraly acceptable motives
to excuse publicaly bad habits frowned upon, is symptomatic of
celebrity lies that help them preserve their unglorious private
lives behind a smooth and glossy image.
Another recurring gimmick of these vignettes is the way they find
the less embarassing excuse to get out of these vacuous head-to-head
meetings without offending the guest, without letting the other
believe they dislike the guest. This is a symbolic traduction
of the situations when a celebrity is contractualy obliged to
attend to an interview/show for promotion or just for good public
relation that might serve the future prosperity of their career.
This is self derision of the star-system by the stars themselves
by the stars' friend, Jarmusch, for star lovers, us the audience.
Irony, humor and cynism.
4 - Those shit'll kill ya : Joe Rigano, Vinny Vella (Scorsese's
mafia actors), Vinny Vella Jr. +++
Joe, Vinny and Vinny Jr, 3 generations of NYC italians yell, cough,
whine, argue whether it is ok or not to smoke and spur all sorts
of fantasies and urban legends about health hazards caused by
this guilty pleasure. Duplicity plays here under 3 simultaneous
ages of man, Grand-father, father and son, who have a different
relationship/exposition to coffee and cigarettes.
5 - Renée : Renée French (?), E.G. Rodriguez
The only nobody of the cast, Renée is credited as the unknown
girl from NYC. Ironicaly She plays the most inaccessible person.
She is lonely, she has no friend to spend her coffee break with,
she rests away from pressure in a quiet classy café. She's
having her morning "perfect moment", one of these little
whim stars have to comfirm their superior status. She wants her
cup of coffee a the right temperature, the right color, the perfect
balance of ingredient for the perfect taste. Sometimes life is
that simple. Unfortunately this annoying waiter invade her intimacy
and spoils it all at once, not only with bothering questions but
by filling her cup without asking. that's it her perfect moment
is gone, and we can feel her frustration. Her day is ruined now.
she strives to constrain her anger inside with an admirable self
control. The comic situation keeps going on like a silent movie
with contemplative observation of this girl reading her magazine,
her thought fading out in clouds of smoke, and the waiter showing
up every now and then with more disturbing stalking behavior.
6 - Pas de Problème / No Problem : Alex Descas,
Isaac De Bankolé (also in Ghost Dog) ++++
The title is a notorious moto from the french creole (carabbean)
"Pani pwoblem", overused in daily conversation reflecting
the easy going "laid back" attitude in the tropical
islands. The two french actors (who met on L'Arbalète in
1984) represent two sides of the black culture from both side
of the atlantic. Alex (Trouble Every Day, Lumumba, Irma Vep) is
from the Antilles (french carabbean) personifies the "No
Problem" attitude. Isaac (Ghost Dog, Night on Earth,
Chocolat) is from Ivory Coast, and seem to totally miss
this "No Problem" attitude, shows a paranoid nevrosis,
refusing to understand that his friend didn't need any particular
reason to enjoy his company. Despite Alex repeating endlessly
he's fine, Isaac believes it's only politeness or shyness about
sharing his problems with him, thus leaves the table offended
by this obvious lack of trust and confidence. Jarmusch explores
here, the self-reflective attitude of the stars, although these
characters could be any one of us. It seems impossible for them
to meet just for the fun (like Iggy and Tom Waits tried in the
first vignette), like if it was a waste of time of their busy
schedule! Isaac is outraged that Alex has not a single little
problem to share with him, which would give a meaning to his friendship
and justify his existance in a way by making him feel important
(to somebody close), and maybe he looked for someone more desperate
than him to comfort his own misery. This exagerrated situation
emphasize on a futile blatent misunderstanding that can degenerate
into useless fight spoiling this innocent coffee break Jarmusch
wants to describe as the universal smallest moment of joy in life.
7 - Cousins : Cate Blanchett vs. Cate Blanchett ++++
Again the theme of interchangeability/duplicity, a degree deeper,
the two cousines are played by the same actress! Here we can see
a famous actress playing herself on screen, taking some derision
at her inaccessible status of movie star as she meets her broke,
ill-mannered cousin, standing for the average audience profile,
pushed to an extreme to emphasis the gap between hollywood stars
and normal people. Yet the irony plays on the fact Cate performs
this "normal girl from the crowd" and serves herself
some snide attacks at her snobish attitude, and her perfect life.
So we are given simultaneous views of the same person from two
contradictory behavior. The point here is not to hide the fact
the same actress plays both roles, under excessive make up, in
order for us to remain fuly aware that Cate talks to Cate, like
Good vs. Evil sides, successful vs. loser. the "good"
Cate's face decomposes, and worries for her reputation, when the
"bad" Cate mentions she is occasionaly mistaken for
the star. Boring talks about what it's like to be a celebrity
and falsely modest denial from the star. Again the point is not
the content of these empty small talks, but the reaction of each
character to them, the evolution of the situation, the sensible
tension build up, the irony of this decalage coming from this
artificial/improbable setup. This sketch is full of cynic phrases
to discredit the glamour surface of stardom like : "Isn't
it funny how when you can't afford something it costs a fortune,
but suddenly when you can afford it it's just, like, free?"
8 - Jack shows to Meg his Tesla coil : Meg White, Jack
White (The White Stripes) +++
9 - Cousins? : Alfred Molina (PTA actor), Steve Coogan
(from 24H party people) ++++
10 - Delirium : GZA, RZA (Wu-Tang Clan), Bill Murray
This short was supposed to feature the 3 members of the Wu-Tang
Clan, but Ghostface Killah never showed up, which prompts in their
impros a hint at their buddy being always late. GZA and RZA were
extatic to meet Bill Murray and kept on saying Bill fucking Murray!!!
The impro translates a spontaneous reaction, words that were felt.
Here we have several levels of irony interweaving in this artificial
situation. Bill Murray who is a famous hollywood actor (although
probably before his latest success with Lost in Translation) ends
up at the lowest possible position of a wannabe actor in Hollywood
: waiter in a bad diner. This is an intentionaly provocative clash
of two contradictory realities, since Bill plays himself and not
a beguinner. We can also interpretate Bill's job as the desperate
situation of a has-been actor who lost the glory and wealth of
fame, this might personify the haunting nightmare of all stars.
GZA and RZA behave like groupies seeing for the first time in
flesh their favorite movie star, quoting famous lines of his films...
which annoys Bill. They play themselves, but act like the next
fanboy in town, that's the relativity intriduced by Jarmusch,
saying that any star is the fan of another star just like you
and me. Behind these ridiculizing situations putting stars under
their less flatering angle, he wants to break the common stereotypes
about stardom and fandom, using absurd demonstrations.
11 - Champagne : Bill Rice, Taylor Mead (mythic stars
of the 70ies underground cinema, Warhol's Factory) +++
I don't know these actors and didn't get the references mentionned
in this piece so I'm admit my perception of thisone is uneducated.
I welcome a walkthrough if anyone wants. I found the atmosphere
very artificial and the lines too cliché and not really
perfomed by the characters, the content was average and uneventful,
but this is without all the potential subtext i missed.