By Antoine Tedesco
Verbally effervescent dialogue propels Smoke to the forefront of storytelling. The film by director Wayne Wang (The Joy of Luck Club) and acclaimed novelist Paul Auster (The Music of Chance) is destined to become a classic. “A lot of the talk in the movie is a smoke screen, the smoke that obscures understanding. The film’s about how people talk to each other and listen to each other – or don’t,” says Auster.
With brilliant performances by the entire cast, Smoke is an emotional jigsaw puzzle of events that bring together all the cast members in one way or another. All the characters in Smoke are, in some way, storytellers. They tell lies, truths and secrets about themselves and the situations that make-up their lives.
As the characters smoke, the novelic destiny of the film mingles with the straightforward style, that brings about the feeling that the dialogue is both solid and dissipating, like smoke. “As an image, smoke is something that you can’t hold onto – it’s mysterious, it dissipates into the air. I think the movie Smoke works a little like that: it will touch people in a way that is so deep that they won’t be able to say why,” says Wang.
The location for much of the freewheeling wordplay is Auggie Wren’s (Harvey Keitel) Brooklyn Cigar Shop. The cigar shop becomes a metaphor for every cigar shop, coffee shop, backyard or frontstep in every city in every country of the world, where characters like ourselves [as people] gather. We are Auggie, Paul (William Hurt), and Rashid (Harold Perrineau Jr.). Smoke speaks to us about a reality where Auggie shows his photo project to Paul, and says ‘You’ll never get it if you don’t slow down.’ Paul thinks the pictures are all the same, but Auggie makes him realize that each one is different, that if a person stays in the same place and looks very closely at what’s around him, he will see a lot.
Rating: Five eyes.