I can't believe how bad this film is considering. It really creaked and in parts became unintentionally funny and then just plain boring. I even found myself staring at Hurt and thinking "nice leather jacket. I wonder where I could get a jacket like that" and "doesn't he look a bit like Ryan Gosling" and then I realised the film was finishing but - oh right- it doesn't.. it does the last scene again in mime.
This film as some interesting aspects that you won't find in most cinema past or present. While it delivers on the simplicity of setting like a Straight Play would most of the characters are anything but one dimensional. Harvey's presence carries a lot of the film with his personal story being reflected in the shop and through the experiences of the other characters.
Auster's New York, or Faulkner's South? Storytelling, fathers and sons, meandering tone. All that works. What doesn't work is that these tropes are extended beyond what the film can manage. There's a Great White Father, it's not even on the Bechdel test radar, and it features a blind "mammy." The small stories and wry moments are sacrificed to navel-gazing-- and the gaze is very, very familiar.
Saw this at the soon-to-be bull-dozered Curzon Soho. Straight after I was taken by a beautiful lady to my first and last visit to the Groucho Club, oddly, Harvey Keitel sat at an adjacent table. He was also with a beautiful woman and she kept looking over his shoulder to see who else was walking in, I will always remember the 'methody' shrug he gave her and now I realise I was doing the same thing she was.
A glimpse at a corner of NYC by way of characters chance-encountering one another &helping each other out. As if they get it that they're all connected - which they turn out to be by way of the film's story (+ much real talk by Paul Auster "If it happens it happens, if it doesn't it doesn't. You never know what's going to happen next, and when you think you do - that's the moment you don't know a god damn thing")
Not as much of a masterpiece one would expect (or hope) given the talent involved but it's still charming and thought-provoking in all the right ways. The 90's were a fertile decade for American independent cinema and "Smoke" is a solid entry, even if it doesn't quite all come together in the end. Nonetheless, well worth watching.