First off, Coffee and Cigarettes is fun and worth spending some time to watch. I’ve really liked Jarmusch’s work (Ghost Dog: The Way of the Samurai) and I’ve suffered through his work (Dead Man). This film brought both experiences to mind, but thankfully more of the former and less of the latter.
Coffee and Cigarettes is not merely strung together by the presence of coffee and cigarettes in all of the vignettes/ short stories (sometimes it’s tea, in fact). As my spouse pointed out to me, it is also about the function of those items as anchor, punctuation, distraction, conversation, addiction, purpose, and facilitator in various social settings, particularly small, intimate ones. The dynamics and pacing of meetings, conversation, relationships, conflicts, etc. are dictated (often unconsciously) by these two arguably extraneous (neither is physical nourishment in a significant sense) but ever-present vices.
Some highlights: Bill Murray with GZA and RZA (of the Wu-Tang Clan), Alfred Molina with Steve Coogan, Bill Rice with Taylor Reed, and Iggy Pop with Tom Waits.
An interesting note: apparently this is the 4th Coffee and Cigarettes that Jarmusch has offered up. While I base the following on guesswork alone, I’m fairly certain this recent release is a compendium of these short stories dating back to ’86. The film feels exactly like what it is: a collection of small projects, loosely bound, but thematically consistent, driven by a very skilled and often (unfortunately) meandering writer/director.