Blue In The Face Review
By Christopher Null
It took all of five days after wrapping the shoot of Smoke to create Blue in the Face, an (allegedly) all-improvised follow-up to Wayne Wang and Paul Auster's feature centered on a tiny smoke shop in Brooklyn. It's a weird experiment in filmmaking, studded with cameos by Lou Reed, Madonna, Michael J. Fox, Roseanne, Lily Tomlin, and more. Unfortunately, you've probably seen all the funniest bits in the movie's trailer.
Separated into segments with titles like "Brooklyn Attitude," Blue in the Face explores the Brooklyn mystique and the Brooklyn experience with video interviews and impromptu sketches. Everything "Brooklyn" is praised, from Ebbets Field and Jackie Robinson to Belgian Waffles and the sanctity of the local cigar store.
A lot of this is hilarious: Reed as the smoke shop employee/eyeglass frame inventor who's been thinking about leaving the city for 35 years; Jim Jarmusch as Bob, who is finally giving up his Lucky Strikes; Fox in an insanely comical turn as a spontaneous social analyst/psychologist; Mel Gorham as Violetta, Auggie's only partially stable girlfriend.
Holding the craziness together (sort of) is Auggie (Harvey Keitel) and the Brooklyn Cigar Co. where he works. When news that the store has been sold arrives, Auggie does his best to change the owner's (Victor Argo) mind, culminating in the appearance of the ghost of Jackie Robinson, who convinces him the store should stay open.
This is not your typical Hollywood fare. It's not typical anything. Clocking in at about 76 minutes, Blue in the Face clearly has the look and feel of a spontaneous collection of vignettes, some of which work, and some of which don't. It's worthwhile for the funny bits, and the film isn't long enough to make you lose interest when it drags. I suppose it did what it was supposed to do (that is, give everyone who wasn't in Smoke something to do for a few afternoons). You'll have to be the judge if that was a good idea or a bad one.
Facts and Figures
In Theaters: Friday 13th October 1995
Box Office Worldwide: $1.3M
Production compaines: InterAL, Miramax Films
Rotten Tomatoes: 43%
Fresh: 9 Rotten: 12
Cast & Crew
Starring: Lou Reed as Man with Strange Glasses, Michael J. Fox as Pete Maloney, Roseanne Barr as Dot, Mel Gorham as Violet, Jim Jarmusch as Bob, Lily Tomlin as Waffle eater, Jared Harris as Jimmy Rose, Giancarlo Esposito as Tommy Finelli, Malik Yoba as Watch Man, José Zúñiga as Jerry, Victor Argo as Vinnie, Stephen Gevedon as Dennis, John Lurie as Saxophone player, Madonna as Singing Telegram, Sharif Rashed as Purse snatcher, Mira Sorvino as Young lady, Keith David as Jackie Robinson, Peggy Gormley as Sue the waitress, Harvey Keitel as Auggie Wren