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Smoke
Smoke
Actors: Giancarlo Esposito, JosÚ Z˙˝iga, Stephen Gevedon, Harvey Keitel, Jared Harris
Genres: Comedy, Drama
R     2003     1hr 52min

In the tradition of THE BIG CHILL, William Hurt (TUCK EVERLASTING, CHANGING LANES) and Harvey Keitel (PULP FICTION, U-571) head an all-star cast in this unforgettably fun and entertaining motion picture! A group of people'...  more »

     

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Movie Details

Actors: Giancarlo Esposito, JosÚ Z˙˝iga, Stephen Gevedon, Harvey Keitel, Jared Harris
Genres: Comedy, Drama
Sub-Genres: Comedy, Drama
Studio: Miramax Home Entertainment
Format: DVD - Color - Closed-captioned
DVD Release Date: 03/04/2003
Original Release Date: 06/09/1995
Theatrical Release Date: 06/09/1995
Release Year: 2003
Run Time: 1hr 52min
Screens: Color
Number of Discs: 1
SwapaDVD Credits: 1
Total Copies: 0
Members Wishing: 16
MPAA Rating: R (Restricted)
Languages: English

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Movie Reviews

Smoke / Blue In The Face
Malcolm Lawrence | 02/16/2000
(5 out of 5 stars)

"There's no way you can ever explain the significance of a cigarette to someone who doesn't smoke. In fact, when I started smoking I didn't even realize I'd started smoking, I just found that the friends I was making, the most interesting and creative folk I wanted to hang around with, were smokers. I soon realized that there's a ritualistic bonding that happens over a slight sliver of tobacco that in these fascistic times may be seen as merely a nervous habit or as a disgusting way to treat your body however self-righteously one cares to look at it, but the things you learn, the secrets you hear, the confessions you're a witness to over a smoke can be so spiritually nourishing that the health risks have a tendency to pale in comparison. (Think of Nat "King" Cole's voice. That's not natural. That is the timbre of a man who had smoked JUST ENOUGH cigarettes to achieve that rich, sonorous tone.) Sometimes a cigarette is the only friend you've got; sometimes it's the only thing you have available to offer to show there's no hard feelings, or to offer solace in a time of despair. In Europe when someone reaches for a cigarette everyone else you're speaking with is offered one before the person offering takes their own cigarette. Smoke is a film about this sort of bonding, exploring how a half dozen lives intersect at the Brooklyn Cigar Co., at the corner of 3rd Street and 8th Avenue in New York City.For Auggie Wren, who owns it, the store is the center of the world-so much so that every single morning he stands across the street from it and takes a photograph. He shows his photo albums to Paul (William Hurt), a writer who is a regular customer: "That's my project. What you'd call my life's work." Paul observes that all the photos are the same. "They're all the same," Auggie says, "but each one is different from all the others." Then Paul sees someone he knows in one of the photos: His wife, who was pregnant when she was shot and killed one morning on the street outside the store. "It's Ellen," he says. "Look at her. Look at my sweet darling." And he begins to cry. Now all the photos do not look the same any more. One of the subjects of "Smoke" is the way lives are changed by small details. Auggie sometimes reflects that if Ellen hadn't given him exact change on that sad morning, if any little thing at all had slowed her by a second, she would not have walked into the path of the bullet.Paul, too, has his life changed. One day after buying his Te-Amos at the store, he is walking absentmindedly down the street when he almost steps into the path of a truck. He is pulled back and saved by a young black man named Rashid (Harold Perrineau). Paul insists he do something for Rashid; it's a universal rule, when someone saves your life, that you just repay them. Rashid resists, but finally settles for a lemonade. What with one thing and another, Rashid eventually ends up living in Paul's apartment for a few days, to the indignation of Rashid's aunt, who doesn't understand the situation. Life goes on. Auggie's old girlfriend from years ago (Stockard Channing) materializes with the news that Felicity (Ashley Judd, who can do more in five minutes of film than Drew Barrymore can in two hours.), who may or may not be his daughter, is pregnant. Rashid, who speaks in careful, intellectual terms, turns out to be another lost child: After his mother's death years ago, his father disappeared. Then Rashid (whose real name turns out to be Thomas Jefferson Cole) tracks his father (Forest Whitaker) down to a small-town gas station, where ... Well, where yet another coincidence reveals that life does not unfold by plan, but by chance, often assisted by coincidence, irony and luck-both good and bad. Even though the entire cast is strong on many different levels, William Hurt and Harvey Keitel make this film their own. When we first meet William Hurt's character he looks and acts just like your stereotypical alcoholic writer whose life is just one long inexorable wait for the inevitable, but through the course of the film he begins to realize that suffering solo is an indulgence he really can't afford when the people he finds himself encountering don't have the luxury of self-pity, as they each stick their necks out however awkwardly or gracefully as they can to try and connect with each other.When it comes to Harvey Keitel, however, I can think of no other working actor in America right now who has the talent and self-assurance (and the prodigious pace) to handle the kinds of roles he's been tackling in the past few years. He works all the time, in big roles and small, and throughout his career he has always made himself available for projects that are risky or experimental or just plain goofy. Here he is as the cigar store philosopher. Look back at his recent films and he is the vile "BAD LIEUTENANT," and Mr. Fixit in "PULP FICTION," and the outcast neighbor in "THE PIANO," and a crook in "RESERVOIR DOGS," and as a filmmaker in the yet-to-be-released "ULYSSES' GAZE" which was lauded at this year's Cannes Film Festival. Best known for his edgy, intense and sometimes unnerving characterizations, Keitel has made a career out of bringing to light the gears at work in the mind of an embattled regular guy. Keitel came to prominence in the early films of Martin Scorsese and went on to become Scorsese's second most important acting collaborator after Robert De Niro (both Keitel's and De Niro's careers were jump-started with Scorsese's 1973 masterpiece "Mean Streets,") and something struck me as I was watching Keitel in Smoke. I started to think about the similarities and differences between Keitel and De Niro, of the macho, streetwise undertow they each mine for their performances, why De Niro doesn't excite me like he used to, why my admiration of Keitel keeps growing, and whether or not De Niro could have done as effective a job in Keitel's role in Smoke. I think it has to do with the fact that with De Niro, no matter how much of an incredible actor he is, I always know he's acting. Don't get me wrong. He has left me transfixed countless times over the years, but I never get the feeling he's dealing on as many different levels as Keitel.Keitel has a stage presence that is that much more worldly wise than De Niro's, and for the roles Keitel tackles you always feel as if he actually has lived that particular role at one time or another. With De Niro you can just tell that he'll never tell you his last secret no matter how chummy he appears. Ever. But, with Keitel, he wants to tell you his last secret (no matter how long it takes for him to reveal it) as not only a way of unburdening his own soul, but to also serve as a precautionary tale of how you, too, could learn from his mistakes.Maybe De Niro's incessant limelight and Keitel's comparative obscurity has something to do with this. For so long when I was growing up De Niro was this silent enigma who just happened to show up in practically every significant American film released in a fifteen year stretch. But for Harvey Keitel, originally cast in the leading role in Francis Ford Coppola's APOCALYPSE NOW (1979), the actor had a falling out with the director because he wouldn't sign a contract that would hold him to Coppola for seven years and was fired on location in the Philippines. Keitel was replaced by Martin Sheen (who has never made another film with Coppola). Instead of starring in one of the most publicized films in recent history, he was featured in Ridley Scott's considerably more modest (and commercially unsuccessful) directoral debut, THE DUELLISTS, adapted from the story by Joseph Conrad. This marked the beginning of a very busy but unsatisfying period during which Keitel appeared in 20 films and three plays in ten years. Though he continued to give strong performances, many of the films were mediocre and/or little-seen. Because the word got around that he was "difficult" simply because he didn't care to be beholden to a director, Keitel became a regular in minor fare from once major international directors, while former co-star Robert De Niro went on to glory in some of the most respected films of the decade. The role of Judas (irony of ironies) in Scorsese's THE LAST TEMPTATION OF CHRIST marked the beginning of Keitel's Hollywood comeback. Though the film was a commercial flop, it brought the actor back into the eye of the general public. Keitel starred in several more flops before the banner year 1991, when he had meaty roles in three major motion pictures: MORTAL THOUGHTS, THELMA & LOUISE and BUGSY. Since then he has been reinstated on the industry's A-list. The fact that Harvey Keitel perfectly captures the spirit of Auggie Wren in SMOKE is indicative of the way the tide is turning in film these days. The oral tradition is making a comeback. Words and storytelling are beating out car chases and explosions, and when Keitel sits down with Hurt at the end of the film to tell the greatest Christmas story of all time you're absolutely mesme"
Fresh, New and Different
M. Fields | Brooklyn, New York USA | 09/23/2004
(5 out of 5 stars)

"Smoke is a great off beat film that took me by surprise. I just happened to catch it on cable one day. For those of you that live in Williamsburgh, Brooklyn, you'll love seeing that part of town on film including the "J" train as it slowly creeps up the track towards the Williamsburgh Bridge and BedStuy off in the hazy distance and the old Williamsburgh Bank in the foreground. It's a long lazy shot and I find myself sometimes watching that scene over and over again. It's a beautiful shot of that part of Brooklyn. Close enough to hear the train but far enough to keep the other city noises in the background. Utterly beautiful!

This film is full of quirky characters. Auggie (Harvey Keitel) is probably the most off beat and quirky of them all. Stockard Channing gives a stunning performance as Auggie's ex girlfriend and Ashley Judd is brilliant, even though she only has one scene, as their drug addicted, poor and bitter daughter. The film also stars William Hurt (Altered States), Harold Perrineau Jr, (Romeo&Juliet) and Forest Whitaker (Panic Room).

The most unexpected moment in Smoke is Auggie's Christmas story. I don't want to give too much away but it's sad, touching and funny all at the same time. Don't look for special effects, explosions, car chases or gun fights here. There are none. Just good storytelling.

Also interesting are the bonus attractions on the dvd. Seeing the director (Wayne Wang) direct another director (Forest Whitaker) and watching Whitaker accept and discuss Wang's directions were especially captivating.

All in all, a lovely film to curl up with. Enjoy!"
Exhilarating in its wisdom
Malcolm Lawrence | 02/23/1999
(5 out of 5 stars)

"I am your average movie buff whose taste in movies runs from the traditional movie fare such as "Ben-Hur", "E.T.", and "Star Wars". However, more and more recently I find myself attracted to the independent cinema. "Smoke" was a film that follows close on the heels of such indie blockbusters as "Short Cuts" and "Pulp Fiction" and, though not to take anything away from the former two films (which in my opinion are both masterpieces), "Smoke" lives up to the hype. Harvey Keitel was embarrasingly shut out of the Academy Awards in '95 (as was the entire film and two other gems from that year, "Heat" and "Casino", whose places in the Oscar slot were replaced by such bizarre choices as the inspirational but still rather childish "Babe" and the Italian Communist propaganda "Il Postino")for what I think is one of the most earthy and brazenly un-movie star-like performances of all time. His Auggie Wren is an enigma; at first sight you see a rugged man worn out by the day-to-day routine. Those who know him better, like widower novelist Paul Benjamin (William Hurt), find a keen philosophical spark behind the skewed demeanor of a cigar shop proprietor. The film has been read by many as too literate for its own good; why employ such insights into celluloid? The answer is not only in Paul Auster's brilliant writing (this film should have won the Best Adapted Screenplay Oscar), but in the minimalist conceits of Adam Holender's camerawork and the mood invoked by director Wayne Wang's leisurely pacing of scenes. The scene where Keitel and Hurt are sitting inside the cigar shop looking at Keitel's photo album is one of the most moving and provocative scenes I have ever seen on film, ditto the entire last fifteen minute segment, essaying "Auggie Wren's Christmas Story", an idiosyncratic piece that originally appeared in the New York Times in Christmas 1990. The film's closing dialogue is one of the most poignant recent lines ever to end a movie: Wren: If you can't share your secrets with your friends then what kind of friend are you? Benjamin: Exactly...then life just wouldn't be worth living. The brilliance of the entire film is precisely how minimal its plotline is. Those who disagree that the film's meandering style didn't suit them miss the point. The pacing may be lazy, but the film surely is not. It's odd, and never before has the lack of harmony as displayed by Tom Waits' boozy barroom version of "Innocent When You Dream" seemed so poetic when coincided with the images of this film. The film has a message involving race, and I realized what a true filmmaker Wang is in not losing the subtlety of this message. Cross-cultural differences cannot be solved by obsessively preaching and ranting at your audience. They can be solved through generous displays of human emotion and a good evocation of sentiment. Wang does precisely this when, as the end credits unfold, he shows Keitel's hands clenched in between the lonely fingers of an elderly black lady. In perfect contrast, Spike Lee's "Do the Right Thing" sermonizes when Mookie the pizza delivery boy speaks of Louis Farrakhan and the entire celluloid of the film crawls with a false reverence shown toward the man whose anti-Semitism and reverse racism ring hollow within the tolerance context that film was trying to shoot for. "Smoke" may not be for everybody, and I realize that for those unfamiliar with novelistic style and flourish the film's many shots-which-call-attention-to-themselves (such as the camera moving into Keitel's lips as he tells the Christmas story) may seem needlessly stylistic, but the idea is not to get irritated by such a thing, but to weigh how closely the story's impact becomes so much more personal as the close-up gets tighter. 1995 was a really good year for movies: right off the top of my head I can name "Braveheart", "Apollo 13", "Seven", "Get Shorty", "Casino", "Toy Story", "Heat", "Sense and Sensibility", "Twelve Monkeys", and "Richard III". "Smoke" was the cream of the crop."
This movie is pure art
Malcolm Lawrence | 09/07/1999
(5 out of 5 stars)

"This movie is pure art. And Wang and Auster are fine craftsman. Auster with a wonderfully dense and intricate image of the 4 main characters and the half-dozen others. And Wang in his tableau presentation of each story. The scene with Keitel and Hurt looking through Auggie's photo album reminded me of Monet's paintings at Giverney. Each painting of the same spot, but with different light, or fog or seasonal vegetation. The same of the photos. When Auggie has Paul slow down and look at each photo, true art. And of course the stark realism of the final scene with Keitel telling the Christmas story. We again see Wang the artist. First with a simple scene in a deli and the magnificent acting of Keitel and Hurt. And then the artist clears his pallette and tells it again in pictures and music with Tom Waits. Unbelieveable! The best movie of that year."