A companion piece to director Wayne Wang and writer Paul Auster’s Smoke, Blue in the Face features several characters from that film — including anyone else who felt like showing up and hanging out on the set on a particular day — ad-libbing various situations set in and around Auggie’s (Harvey Keitel) Brooklyn cigar shop. This is what you can do when you deliver a film ahead of schedule, most of the cast doesn’t feel like calling it a day just yet and there are a few reels of unused film stock lying around — the results are inevitably uneven, but overall it’s a good-natured and enjoyable diversion. William Hurt’s haunted writer character, Paul Benjamin, is notably missing, as is Forest Whitaker’s hook-handed Cyrus Cole, but there are a few new faces with which to fill the void; highlights include Jim Jarmusch deciding to quit smoking and having his last-ever cigarette with Keitel and Michael J. Fox (in jean shorts and sport coat) conducting a bizarre survey with Giancarlo Esposito. A love letter to Brooklyn, to filmmaking, to acting, to spending your free time doing something creative — even if you might be ravaging your lungs in the process.
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