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peterme’s Indie Film Watch

Over the last week, caught two movies that are playing in the Bay Area and a few other places around the country.

Coffee and Cigarettes is a trifle hardly worth reviewing, a compilation of shorts centered around the act of drinking coffee and smoking cigarettes.,Considering how uninspired the initial forays were, what surprised me is how the film turns a corner once Cate Blanchett appears, and from that point on, the stories hit more than they miss. It’s a bit of self indulgent claptrap (“Look at me! I’m Jim Jarmusch! Directing my awesome friends! And you will see it!”), but at times entertaining. Ms. Blanchett is a high point, as is the ego battle between Alfred Molina and Steve Coogan. The most emotionally resonant clip might be the finale, “Champagne”, with a pair of old guys sitting out back, drinking coffee and hearing Mahler. Taylor Mead’s face is haunting in it’s decrepitude.

Oh, and since I’m not big into the new rock and roll, I’d never really got a good look at Jack and Meg White. Two things about Jack: 1. He’s a natural on film. He’ll be cast in many movies in his future, methinks. Real good screen presence. 2. He’s much, much prettier than Meg.

The Saddest Music in the World is a deliriously odd piece of work. In 1933, a Winnipeg brewery baronness offers $25,000 (Canadian) to the country that can produce the eponymous item. This sets the stage for what is a fever dream of family, love triangles (well more like love-Stars-of-David what with all the connections), beer, melodrama, and some kick-ass titles design. It’s my first Guy Maddin film, and it’s safe to say I’ve never seen anything quite like it. It was a friend’s umpteenth Maddin film, and she reported that it’s much like all the others.

You’ve got to give it up to Maddin and his ability to not just envision this bizarre world, but to carry it through, pretty much without a hitch. Isabella Rosselini is, of course, gorgeous. Mark McKinney is surprisingly good (though he can’t *quite* keep it up through to the very end). And those vats of beer made me thirsty. Go if you want to see something you’ve never seen before — it won’t disappoint, and it might really draw you in.

(Side note: if this release listing is correct, New York really has fallen as a cineaste’s city. Such a shame.)