Smoke Movie Review

Movie Review by Anthony Leong © Copyright 1997


First he took an unsmoked cigar and he put it on a balance and weighed it. Then he lit up-- he smoked the cigar, carefully tapping the ashes into the balance pan. When he was finished, he put the butt into the pan along with the ashes. He weighed what was there, then he subtracted that number from the original weight of the unsmoked cigar. The difference-- was the weight of the smoke.

Smoke is a quaint little movie about the comings and goings at a cigar store on a corner in Brooklyn. There is Auggie (Harvey Keitel), the manager of the store, whose ex-wife shows up saying that the daughter he is unaware of is in trouble and needs his help. There is Rashid, while running away from something, who saves a writer, Paul (William Hurt), from being run over by a car. And there is a one-armed garage owner (Forest Whitaker) out in the Peakskills, trying to put an indelible moment of weakness in his past behind him. As the film develops, the lives of these four individuals become intertwined and they help each other 'find the weight of the smoke'.

There is a lot of philosophical subtext in the dialogue... there certainly is more than meets the eye as the characters tell each other stories and talk about mundane things. One recurring theme in the film is the act of stealing something and doing something positive with it. Auggie takes the same picture of his store every day with a camera that he took from a blind old woman on Christmas Day. Paul takes the story of Auggie taking the camera from the blind old woman and submits it to a newspaper for a Christmas story. A bag of money that Rashid picks up off the sidewalk, dropped by a bank robber, is used to save Auggie from bankruptcy when a shipment of cigars is ruined. And Auggie's ex-wife takes his trust to help the daughter that really isn't his.

This is one movie that you'll probably want to watch more than once to see the encompassing thesis that Wayne Wang and Paul Auster are presenting.


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