24 June 2004 | Mikew3001
Joyful meditation about life
"Blue in the Face" was a fastly produced follow-up of director Wayne Wang's and writer Paul Auster's 1994 art house hit "Smoke". While "Smoke" was produced in the usual way with script, casts, etc., this movie was a quickly shot within less than a month, just containing vague ideas, interviews and improvisations with the same production unit and main actor Harvey Keitel, but without a script and with lots of popular supporting actors who were improvising their performance straight in front of the camera. And it works.
Focused on Keitel's smoke shop in Brooklyn, his customers and visitors are telling stories about their lives, views, ideas, dream, relationships and carreers, all focused around the topic of smoking. Lou Reed can't remember his first cigarette, but presents his self-constructed glasses, Jim Jarmusch celebrates his last cigarette, Harvey Keitel reminds which war movie made him a cigarette smoker, and there are several more famous guests in the shop. Michael J. Fox plays a weird insurance guy, Madonna appears as a singing telegram girl, and John Lurie, Mia Sorvino, Paul Keith and the whole NYC artist's scene appear on the screen.
Although the pointless composition of independent scenes and interviews might become a bit out of tune or boring sometimes, the movie works really well. There are lots of interesting (real life?) stories told by the actors, a great rare groove soundtrack that could fit into every Tarantino production, and some really good jokes too. "Blue in the Face" become a minor art house classic in Europe in the nineties, and one could wonder if this movie would have been the same ten years later in the times of anti-smoking laws and campaigns. Nice independent movie.