Blue in the Face (1995) Poster

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9/10
An understated, but brilliant film
maurizio-1114 September 2001
Blue in the face is a follow up to 'Smoke' a film which I saw recently and very much enjoyed. I thought I'd give this one a try as well.

Like the first film (even more so) this is a collection of beautifully acted, largely improvised vignettes, involving the customers and general passers-by of the Brooklyn based cigar shop run by Auggie (Harvey Keitel). There is a lose storyline involving the relationship between Auggie and his girlfriend Violetta (brilliantly played by Mel Gorham) and the troubled marriage of Vinnie the storeowner and his wife. The store has been a part of the local community for years and when Vinnie gets a very good offer to sell up, it's bound to badly affect a lot of people.

The best moments of the film lie in the documentary style rambling of Brooklyn residents (including Lou Reed) as they describe what it means to them being part of the city, and also the brilliant monologues that some of the characters perform. There are moments of genius in this film. It is very funny in a very understated way, the assembled characters are all eccentric in their own way but totally believable. The dialogue is natural and you get to know and feel for the characters very quickly in to the movie.

I loved this film; I thought it was better than 'Smoke' a film I also liked. 'Blue in the Face' might be harder to get in to for some people, it's improvisational style and lack of structured story might put people off or make them think it's hard to follow, but it isn't. Don't try to make too much sense of what's going on you don't need to. Treat it as a series of snapshots in to the lives of a collection of colourful New Yorkers. Just sit back and watch the characters play out their lives, you'll very soon be engrossed by it.

It was an absolute delight to watch. Not for everyone maybe but definitely for me!
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7/10
Joyful meditation about life
Mikew300124 June 2004
"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.
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great flick for pop culture lovers - five stars, three thumbs up
cls-64 December 2000
This is a light and fun - although intelligent - movie, worth seeing, if not for the whole marvellous opus of pop culture, for his cast alone: Harvey Keitel, Roseanne, Victor Argo and precious appearances of Lou Reed, Jim Jarmusch (as Bob, in my favorite sequence of the movie), John Lurie and Madonna, to name a few. Soundtrack by David Byrne only adds to the mix.

´Blue in the Face´ cynically, cleverly and ironically chronicles the life and the history of Brooklyn, NY. Watch it, it´s independent cinema at its best.
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Disjointed but really funny look at the community of Brooklyn
bob the moo18 February 2002
Wang's followup to Smoke is a series of improvised scenes put together to represent the diveristy of Brooklyn's culture. Meanwhile Auggie is struggling with Vinnie's decision to sell the cigar store.

The "plot" to this film doesn't really matter. This was shot in the time that was left over when Smoke wrapped earlier than scheduled. In many ways this is a much better film. It's a huge amount of fun to watch and it all ends in a street party - it all makes you want to live in Brooklyn and meet all these weird and wonderful people that live there. It's sketchy nature can mean that it feels a little piecey but most of it is funny or interesting and you may not notice it's lack of structure. The actual story is actually quite good - Vinnie's decision to shut the store is handled as a threat to the friendships that exist around the story and also the importance of such places in holding the community together. It makes a good point and, mixed with the humour, isn't hard to swallow at all.

The cast are good - many of Smoke's faces are still there and are complimented by famous faces. Stars such as Fon, Roseanne, Madonna, Lou Reed, Jim Jarmusch, Lily Tomlin, Ru Paul etc all make cameos - Madonna isn't great but MJ Fox is really funny. The remainder of the cast are made up of real quality actors such as Victor Argo, Harvey Keitel and Giancarlo Esposito to name a few.

Overall this is a light reward for watching the slighly heavier Smoke. Both films are good in their own way but this is the most fun to watch.
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7/10
Good for them
Dockelektro11 August 2001
I wish I could make a movie this funny and so easily. Five days, improvisations, not a definite storyline and a great and funny movie is born. I loved it, it still makes me laugh and will keep on making me laugh. All the actors are great, but if I had to give an award to one of them it would be Jim Jarmusch, with his "last cigarette" speech. Fantastic also is Lou Reed, and his conclusions about life. The movie really benefits from its addition of well-known stars, including a much-in-the-gutter character Michael J. Fox, which is really funny. The film also includes some curiosities about Brooklyn, and works not only as a set of vignettes but also as an account of what's typical and traditional in that neighbourhood. It has some cool moments and some touching moments, but overall it's a movie to see and not to analyse.
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A romantic view of Brooklyn, excellent improvisation.
gunnar-318 November 2000
Blue in the face might be boring to many because it doesn't follow a standard hollywood paradigm of rising action, climax, resolve. It is more documentary style, although fictitious, and quickly jumps from story to story and character to character. The editing is an interesting component because it successfully brings together disparate themes and characters (who are improvising their lines and stories to some degree). This and some fantastical elements provide a very romanticized view of Brooklyn. Altogether a cohesive piece with some nice performances and some insight into what it is to growup and live in a special loved place.
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1/10
Absolutely pointless...
Sleepensheep15 January 2005
Actors can improvise when a script is provided to build from, but this movie started only with characters and then allowed bad actors, and horrible writers, to deliver off the cuff lines. This is the movie actors do when they want to "really experience their craft". Unfortunately, one learns, without writers, these actors have no craft. The movie is most unfortunate because it followed a very nice movie, "Smoke", and came from a very good write, "Auster". Someone, Auster and Wang most off all, should have finished the movie but then recognize it for what it is, a behind the scenes ego-trip for everyone involved, and just included it as an interesting bit on the Smoke DVD.
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6/10
Messy, but fun
itamarscomix14 January 2012
A companion piece to Smoke rather than a sequel, and as such it works well enough, but the fact that it's made mostly of outtakes and improvisations is easily detectable, and it feels far too disjointed, while still trying rather feebly for a coherent storyline, especially in the epilogue. However, the acting is good enough that many scenes shine through, some of the cameos feel forced but most of them are spot-on (brilliant appearances from Madonna, Roseanne and Jim Jarmusch especially) and it's enjoyable for fans of the original Smoke as well as Jarmusch fans, although all too often it feels like a Jarmusch carbon copy that doesn't have Jim's unique spark and vision.
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3/10
What a pity...
jorda-manaut21 August 2006
I saw this film twice. As a cinema lover, I perfectly know what Paul Auster and, most of all, the actors, wanted to show in this movie. It's just a global view of Brooklyn: what's good or funny or bad up there. The story is alright. But that's not what disappointed me when I saw it. What really bugged me was the way some characters were depicted. The female characters,for example, ( Violeta !!) are really dire. They are a summation of all "female" defaults: yelling, crying, spoiled, selfish, and so on. What a pity...Though there are some funny scenes, I must admit (especially the shots featuring Lou Reed). There are also pretty great shots showing John Lurie (one of the best actors ever) playing with his jazz band.
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7/10
Brookyln mon amour!
rainking_es20 August 2004
After filming Smoke, director Wayne Wang and writer Paul Auster (along with most of the crew and cast from that movie) decided to improvise some kind of tribute to the Brooklyn district. So we find the same tobacconist's in the same street-corner, and managed by the same guy (Harvey Keitel). Surrealist reflexions, small talks, and some of the freaks/weirdos that make up the Brooklyn "fauna". Auster and Wang invited to take part in this "hobby" some of their friends, such as Jim Jarmusch, Lou Reed, Roseanne, and Madonna in person.

Take it or leave it. I don't think they made this movie with any pretension in particular but to have fun, and improvise. So don't you think you'll find here sort of a masterpiece, nor the biggest script ever, 'cause you won't.

It has some acid and lucid sequences, and lots of witty dialogues... and for the non-americans Blue In The Face is such a good way to know about Brooklyn's ways of life and history. That's all.

My rate: 7/10
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3/10
As solid as a smoke-ring
bwaynef31 March 1999
The monologues by Lou Reed, as well as the scene with Harvey Keitel and Jim Jarmusch (preparing to smoke his last cigarette) would be a perfect addition to a "special edition" video release of the terrific "Smoke." Otherwise, this is nothing but a curiosity piece of interest only to the most avid admirers of the earlier film (like me).
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6/10
Okay about LIfe in Brooklyn!
Sylviastel17 April 2013
Brooklyn, New York has changed over the last 18 years since this film first premiered. The location near Prospect Park is now one of the most desirable locales to live and reside in the borough and even in New York City. Brooklyn's transformation from a working class borough has changed in some parts. Brooklyn has become hip for the trend setters. It also gentrified in areas especially near the Prospect Park, Brooklyn's Central Park. Still, the film reminds me of another time when Brooklyn wasn't so hip or trendy but real. The people of Brooklyn and New York City like Harvey Keitel, Lou Reed, and others recall their likes and dislikes as well. They spend their time smoking at the Brooklyn Cigar Shop where Augie played by Keitel is the manager but not the owner. The cast includes top notch performers like Lily Tomlin, Lou Reed, Roseanne, Mira Sorvino, etc. A lot of the film's script seems improvised but it makes the film more authentic to documenting the life in a day.
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9/10
Great movie, almost like a documentary
themadhatterz16 April 2009
definitely worth a watch this movie is about Brooklyn in New york city and people living there.

The Story is about a small tobacco shop with interviews of various people living in Brooklyn about Brooklyn. so its almost like a documentary in its own way.

It got a good story and lots of tales to tell about people and their lives. Not an action movie more of a calm story type of movie with a lot of talking that gives you a lot of insight into peoples lives in that area and a personal story of the tobacco salesman that works in the shop.
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NY by new yorkers!
ddaraujo17 April 2000
New York is not an unanimity! That's for sure! A movie about the city has to follow the same guidelines. You either love or hate it! Whomever comes to meet the city, makes one's own mind about it. "Blue in the face" is sarcastic, funny, rude and spontaneous. Just like the big apple! Sometimes it looks more like a documentary, with people talking loosely about all kinds of issues, from Ebett's Field to cigarettes. But always with the same Brooklinesque way of living, so peculiar and yet so universal. If you like NY, gotta watch the movie! If you don't, I am sorry!
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Don't think of it as a movie...
PatMcQ19 April 1999
"Blue in the Face" is not a great movie. It is very entertaining and informative, though. It's more like a good TV show. I saw "Smoke" and loved it, and had to see this movie, no matter how bad people told me it was. I didn't like any scene with Roseanne in it. In fact, I really didn't like any part pertaining to the plot. I liked the interviews, and all the skits.

I just liked that it gave me a feel of what life is like in Brooklyn, or at least what these people's perception of Brooklyn is. And it was funny. I've been to Brooklyn, but I don't know too much about what life there is like. I'd like to hear what someone from Brooklyn thinks about the movie.
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8/10
Not as poignant as "Smoke", but great fun nonetheless
Odysseus-929 May 2000
Even though it can be considered a follow-up to "Smoke", "Blue in the Face" is in many ways different. While "Smoke" was written with novel-like precision by Paul Auster, "Blue in the Face" is a series of improvisations. These improvisations generally revolve around life in Brooklyn and the characters' attitudes to New York. The best one has to be Jim Jarmusch's dialogue with Harvey Keitel, which is warm, funny and sometimes thought-provoking.

Another example of the fact that capturing the characters' humanity is much more important than big-budget effects.
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7/10
Rocker was right.
Jerry-13722 April 2000
Now I know what John Rocker was talking about. He spoke the truth of course. This was a good entertaining movie with some of everything about Brooklyn and some great cameos. Was it stupid? Of course it was but fun anyway.
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6/10
Of certainly local interest
Cristi_Ciopron20 September 2008
Warning: Spoilers
I have founded this semi—documentary about the Brooklynian way of life from an ordinary man's POV rather amusing and compelling—and very sarcastic and mordant; it's studded with vaguely familiar faces (whose identities are mostly unknown to me, as I am not a frequenter of the culture in cause—the Jarmusch/ Madonna brands …). The movie is, as I suggested, ironic—yet _unconclusively so. It is unassuming, sometimes funny, and Mel Gorham is very sexy. On the other hand, it's not too intense or particularly successful at seizing the hidden life of Brooklyn. It has the intelligent, not really intellectual or particularly inspired look of other similar attempts—like some Mamet outings …. It's not insightful or meaningful—but funny, light, enjoyable. It is also cruel and merciless in exposing empty lives—people to whom the Dodgers' leaving was the most important thing in their lives, etc., insipid, lifeless existences, withered humanity, banal destines soaked in ugliness. This world is wholly alien to me. This Auster intellectuality, like some Mamet mean intellectuality, seems not very far from the W. Allen intellectuality.

I guess the film is for the most part ironic; yet if it was meant to convey a certain savor of Brooklyn life, it did not succeed—at least with those ignorant of Brooklyn things. The Dodgers and the Belgian waffles are part of that Americana (what Amis once stated as 'too much trolley-car nostalgia and baseball-mitt Americana, too much ancestor worship, too much piety ') that is particularly unattractive to me. In this sociological sense ,the movie describes an utterly uninteresting world and humanity. These things do not seem to me childish—but, on the contrary, senile and boring. These ingredients are particularly repulsive to me. What strikes is the artificiality and shallowness and inner poverty of these clichés. Some 60 years ago, some Europeans, many French Europeans hinted this might denote a style—and even be a stylish thing. Maybe they meant different realities, or maybe things changed too much.
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8/10
Blue In The Face v Smoke + A couple quotes
chloeturgis29 January 2006
I found 'Blue In The Face' much more enjoyable than 'Smoke': it is funnier and more genuine. Although I must admit that seeing 'Smoke' allowed me to discover Paul Auster's novels, many of which are also set in New York (Personally I would recommend The Invention Of Solitude and Oracle Night). Here are a couple quotes from 'Blue In The Face' that I found hilarious: Lou Reed: Yes, I'm smoking cigarettes and many of my friends have died of it. On the other hand, while I'm smoking cigarettes, I'm not downing a bottle of Scotch in 15 minutes. So looked at from this point of view, it's a health tool. Lou Reed: My childhood was so unpleasant that I don't remember anything I think before age 31.
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8/10
This movie raised my spirits
david05-19 April 2005
Equivalent to a cinematic rendition of an,albeit localised(heh) version of James Joyce's 'Dubliners' insofar as it evokes what to me (a non-Brookliner, in fact a Dubliner) what it might feel like to be 'part of a community'....beautiful at every turn, this masterpiece evokes,simply,the everyday interaction of 'characters'(The evocation helped somewhat by the presence of celebrities; i.e.- individuals that carry a 'Gravitas' and pre-known persona (we imagine) that yet inhabits the space of this wonderfully intimate piece of cinema.It is nice to see players allowed to be themselves, wonderfully devoid of all the usual personal and public affectations,and constraints that inevitably surround them in the context of a mainstream $X million dollar production...and produce something that immerses the viewer in the realm of 'an area'....a locale.....(in this case Brooklyn N.Y.C.)...and allows foreigners,such as myself to indulge myself in 'something' that is both 'known and familiar' and actually unknown.Kietel,Reed,Jarmusch,Malik Yoba,Gorham excel themselves in this epic vignette of real-town life in a place within a place.This could be down-town 'anywhere'.I salute all concerned with realising this refreshing piece of brilliance. -Love David Loughran
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Not good. Almost worth it for Jarmusch.
mockturtle25 January 2003
Another underwhelming contribution from Wayne Wang. Why do people mention him in the same breath with other master directors? Even after the execrable `Anywhere But Here' and `Maid in Manhattan'?

This tiny tiny film is occasionally amusing, infrequently insightful, and shrill and inane most of the time. Most of the cast appears quite uncomfortable improvising. The real reason to watch the movie is for Jim Jarmusch's short scene, cut into several small slivers. Lou Reed is occasionally interesting but more often aimless; the rest make almost no impression, even Harvey Keitel. It can only suffer more in comparison to its companion piece `Smoke.' Another film where the characters are `colorful' meaning `annoying cartoons,' for further viewing on the subject watch Alan Rudolph's execrable `Trixie.' Jarmusch is the only gem here, everything he says is funny, incisive, or both.

Hopefully Paul Auster will write more for the screen. Movies with screenplays, that is. I don't think directing is the way to go, though. This film suggests that an excellent documentary is waiting to be made about the different boroughs of New York City and the intense territoriality shown by the natives.
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9/10
The skeleton of Brooklyn.
steelguitar_t1012 January 2003
"Blue in the face", the second movie of Wayne Wang (director) and Paul Auster (writer/screen writer). With the previous one "Smoke", both made up a world of hope, love and hate in a city called New York.

The follow-up, makes a slight distinction. Far from the old several characters' story, little improved situations about Brooklyn, all meeting at Auggie's Cigar Shop.

From the New Yorker philosophy and ramble ons of Lou Reed, to an old man who is still sad because the Dodgers left Brooklyn. The movie is a testimony of Brooklyn and its people. From the thug youngsters, to the nostalgia of the Belgian Waffles and the Dodgers. Everything to create a story about the people and memories that live on through today.

A Perfect 10!! Brooklyn revealed for the first true time. A Success for both fans of Paul Auster or Wang.

Different from the previous but a true and honest portrait of the bones of Brooklyn.
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8/10
Beautiful little movie
erwan_ticheler15 December 2002
And then to wonder that this movie was never meant to be made!!Thank god for Wayne Wang that after shooting Smoke(which does not even come close to this little gem)he had some more footage to show to us.The leading performance by Harvey Keitel is outstanding,this man can really act! I already was convinced though after seeing Mean Streets,Taxi Driver,Reservoir Dogs,Pulp Fiction,Bad Lieutenant etc. The other performances aren't bad either.And then the (guest)actors.Names like Madonna,Roseanne,Michael J. Fox,Mira Sorvino and Lou Reed have small parts in this movie.Especially Madonna and Michael J. Fox are very funny.Another great part of the movie are the statistics of Brooklyn(Belgian Waffles?!).

Although this movie is always seen as an add-on for Smoke I think that Blue in the Face is far superior to it's older brother and that movie should be more in the spotlights. 10/10
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10/10
Not Smoke II
The_Vertigo_Edge26 September 2002
Whenever "Blue in the Face" comes up in conversation, nothing angers me more then hearing it compared to as a sequel to "Smoke." It is clearly not a sequel. When talking about "Goldeneye" you don't refer to it as just another sequel to "Dr. No" in the James Bond series. While "Smoke" was a drama, "Blue in the Face" takes a comical look at those who go in and out of a corner tobacco shop in the heart of Brooklyn. Besides, you can't compare a fully scripted film like "Smoke" to an almost completely improvised approach in "Blue in the Face."

Harvey Keitel plays Auggie Wren, the man behind the counter of the Brooklyn Cigar Store, who acts as a homing beacon for some of the most colorful characters in Brooklyn, including a mentally unstable girlfriend, a rapping watch dealer, an owner and his wife having marriage trouble, and so on. The cast also includes Jim Jarmusch, Malik Yoba, Victor Argo, Madonna, Lily Tomlin, Roseanne, Mel Gorham and Mira Sorvino to name a few.

The topics covered in this film include Brooklyn, the Dodgers, smoking, eye glasses, lack of communication, relationships, surveys and much more.

One of the unique elements of "Blue in the Face" is the use of both the film footage, and interview footage of the actual residents of Brooklyn all tying together. Add on to that little introductions to each section of the film by legendary musician Lou Reed, the film flows through each subject very smoothly.

If your in the mood for a great independent film, check out "Blue in the Face" at your local video store. Just be sure not to start comparing it to "Smoke" as you watch it, otherwise you will get less enjoyment out of the film.

9/10
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